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  1. LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - African governance standards are gradually improving but there are warning signs of backsliding, an annual index on the way countries are governed showed on Monday.The Ibrahim Index of African Governance ranked Somalia lowest, coming bottom in all four categories: safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity and human development.Mauritius kept the top spot, followed by Cape Verde, Botswana, South Africa and the Seychelles, all of which were in the top five last year.Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese telecoms tycoon who founded the index, welcomed the fact that 13 out of 52 countries had improved in overall governance as well as political, social and economic governance over the past five years."The picture is mixed," Ibrahim told a news conference. "Governance has improved across Africa but we need to remain vigilant and not get complacent."Sustainable economic opportunity, a measure of how governments deliver policies conducive to growth, declined in the past five years following improvements from 2005 to 2009.Festus Mogae, a former president of Botswana, said this was a big challenge for Africa."It's a great worry because it has resulted in high unemployment, especially among our youth," Mogae told the Thomson Reuters Foundation."African governments must think of how they can grow their economies so that there are acceptable levels of employment."More and more Africans are going to school and university, he said, but job creation had not been keeping up with the supply of skilled labour.AFRICA RISING ... SLOWLYIbrahim cautioned that even the highest performers had deteriorated in at least one index category, a sign that they had to stay committed to the governance agenda to maintain hard-won gains."Africa is rising but it's rising slowly," he said.Mauritius, South Africa and the Seychelles slipped in the safety and rule of law category, Cape Verde in human development and Botswana in sustainable economic development. South Africa also deteriorated on human rights.Ivory Coast, Guinea, Niger, Zimbabwe and Senegal improved most in overall governance, while Egypt, Libya, Guinea-Bissau, Central African Republic and Mali deteriorated most.Southern Africa scored the highest regional average, with Namibia and Lesotho joining Mauritius, Botswana and South Africa in the top 10.Central Africa got the lowest regional average, with Central African Republic coming in just ahead of Somalia in the overall ranking and Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Congo also among the 10 bottom-ranked countries.The index is based on more than 100 indicators from over 30 independent African and international sources. (Reporting By Astrid Zweynert; Editing by Alisa Tang and Ros RussellSource:
  2. Warsan Shire wrote her personal story of the city in a poem called Love Letter To London for Visit London For 25 years poet Warsan Shire lived in a part of London but felt like an outsider in the city. Now 12 months after representing the capital as London's first Young Poet Laureate (YPL) she said she feels pride for the city and part of it. On 3 October last year, National Poetry Day, Ms Shire was announced as the city's inaugural YPL by Carol Ann Duffy, Britain's Poet Laureate. It triggered a year of residences ranging from the Houses of Parliament to beauty salons and "beautiful sheds" as well as the creation of a body of work which represented how she saw an ever-changing London, which in turn changed her. "It started with a residency at the Houses of Parliament around women and democracy," Ms Shire said. Britain has had a Poet Laureate since 1591 with Carol Ann Duffy (L) holding the current position "It was really surreal and a world within a world - they have a barber shop and they eat jerk chicken one day every week. "But I wanted to speak to the different staff like the kitchen staff and the cleaners to get all their stories. "You become really immersed in those surroundings and I wrote about things and topics I wouldn't usually delve into." Ms Shire, who has performed around the world, won Brunel University's African Poetry prize and had a poem listed as one of the 50 greatest international love poems over the past 50 years. But despite her various high profile accolades she said one of her favourite residences was working in a Chingford school. Warsan Shire said one of her favourite residences was at a school in Chingford "When you see young people struggling to express themselves and you suddenly see the idea land and connect, that moment is amazing," she said. Despite being born in Kenya to Somali parents, Ms Shire grew up in Wembley and Harlesden. She said: "I've lived here my whole entire life, but I always used to have this idea that I didn't feel like I belonged, but after this year it feels so much more like home. "I think because I could travel to so many different parts of it I really understood community and how different neighbourhoods work and now I have this pride." Extract from Love Letter to London, written for Visit London Afraid of what love may ask of us We fill the space with noise and pets Worship and diets Blackouts and beauty products Sleeping pills and dinner parties Porn and apathy I hold your hand as we drive through the city towards whatever is beautiful I feel my bad memories dispel like puffs of smoke - one by one You wear a white glove and pull my sorrow out by the ears I look out into the river And when I look back at you your eyes are wide, spinning plates in the dark I thought love skipped past women who looked like me While she may have found her place in the city, she says the work she has produced in London is universal. She said: "Anything that I'm writing is really about anything I'm struggling with and what we struggle with is really universal. We think we're really isolated but even your sadness is not completely peculiar to you. "I never feel the responsibility that I have to write about a theme or topic but it comes from what I've been inspired by." Warsan Shire who was born in Kenya to Somali parents said London now felt like "home" While it may sound ideal to ruminate on ideas and write all day, being a laureate is a business. There is a job to do. The scheme, run by Spoke and the London Legacy Development Corporation, came with a guaranteed £7,500 worth of commissions plus additional money from extra work and workshops. Ms Shire said: "I've had presentation and media training and it's taught me small things like how to invoice properly and if you're going to freelance for the rest of the life you need to know that. "You have deadlines to meet which was one of the the biggest things - writing to commission. You're asked to write to a brief and then you have a week to get it out and I actually learned I quite like working under pressure. "I usually write a lot anyway but this had more of an intent behind it, I knew that someone was waiting for it." One residency was in this "beautiful shed" created by artist Christine Katerere at the Olympic Park For anyone who questions the point of a poet laureate Ms Shire has a succinct response - "It's beautiful, I mean why not?" But she said she did have to overcome some challenges. "I came in and got some hassle around stereotyping - this whole thing around poetry and young black people and it must be spoken word or hip hop - but over the year all of that has slowly changed. The YPL does have some weight." Although Ms Shire's year is up her plans for the future include returning to the manuscript for her first full collection of poetry and publishing the work she created for YPL. She is also starting to write for film and is planning to move towards fiction and short stories. "I'm just excited about writing and where it will lead, what beautiful things will come of it and what difficult things it will help me survive." Poet Lemn Sissay will announce London's YPL for 2014/15 later on Thursday. The scheme will be funded by The Legacy List until 2018. http:
  3. South Korean vessels covered names with fishing nets to hide their identities [Al Jazeera] Bosaso, SomaliaDescribing illegal fishing as "a national disaster", President Abdiweli Ali Gas of the autonomous state of Puntland, in the country's northeast, ordered four South Korean trawlers into port following claims they broke local laws. Environmentalists used satellite technology to document the vessels trawling the seabed for catches that Al Jazeera discovered are mostly ending up in Italy - despite European Union regulations banning imports of illegally caught fish. Scientists are warning unregulated trawling of the seabed may have devastated the marine environment and fish populations along Somalia's 3,300km coastline, the longest in Africa but one where certain species are particularly vulnerable to overfishing. "Illegal fishing operators prey on coastal countries where the authorities cannot monitor and control their activities," Steve Trent, executive director of the Environmental Justice Foundation, told Al Jazeera. "Typically these are places where local communities rely heavily on fishing for food and jobs." 'Protection' from pirates Following allegations that the South Korean vessels had been breaking fishing laws - despite having licences to operate in the region - Puntland's president ordered the trawlers into the port of Bosaso. The ships are believed to have flouted laws on where and how they can fish, with local fishing communities complaining the trawlers are operating just 3.2km from shore. "The fact that product from the vessels we have tracked operating in Puntland continues to find its way into Europe is evidence of the need to strengthen the implementation of the EU's efforts to block IUU [illegal, unreported and unregulated] imports," said Trent. An official from Puntland's Ministry of Fisheries, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, said the 500-tonne ships regularly fish in protected areas, endangering local fishermen, and reportedly catching species relied upon by communities that face what the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation says are "critical" food shortages. Puntland's crackdown forms part of a wider campaign by authorities to protect the region's marine resources amid warnings that foreign naval action to reduce piracy is fuelling illegal fishing. In June, Gas called illegal fishing "a national disaster" and said it "needed to be stopped". "Our forces and the coastguard unit will operate effectively to fight heavily against the illegal fishing," the president told a press conference. His move follows separate investigations by local officials and the Environmental Justice Foundation, a UK-based non-governmental organisation, which documented the vessels trawling the seabed off Puntland before transporting their catches to the port of Salalah in Oman. Using intelligence provided by seafood traders, Al Jazeera discovered the catches are typically frozen and loaded into shipping containers in Salalah and are then exported to Italy, with some of the fish also heading for Japan, China, South Korea, and Ivory Coast. Watch Part One of the two-part series above and click here to view the complete series. To join the investigation, click here. The four vessels - Ixthus 7, Ixthus 8, Ixthus 9 and Baek Yang 37 - are all listed on the European Commission's website as accredited to export seafood to the EU. Information obtained by Al Jazeera shows large volumes of fish caught by the fleet and valued at about $40m may have entered the EU since 2006. Italy's largest food service distributor, MARR SpA, confirmed it bought fish from the South Korean vessels operating in Puntland as recently as this year, insisting the owner of the vessels "claimed to have legal licences". However, piracy in Somalia's waters has made foreign fishing boats seeking to net the tuna and spiny lobster that are highly prized in international seafood markets, heavily reliant on the "protection" of Somali clans. In 2011, the UN Monitoring Group raised concerns about the South Korean vessels' activities in Somalia and emphasised that none of them had ever reported an attack by Somali pirates - despite being active in waters plagued by piracy. The Monitoring Group observed that "the sale of licences to foreign vessels in exchange for fishing rights has acquired the features of a large-scale 'protection racket', indistinguishable in most respects from common piracy". European threat In late 2013, the European Commission warned imports of fish from South Korean vessels could be banned unless the country takes steps to monitor and control its fishing fleet. Based on findings detailing illegal activities in West Africa - where an investigation by Al Jazeera in 2012 uncovered illegal fishing in Sierra Leone - the Commission said South Korean-flagged vessels had been operating without licences and in protected areas, hiding their markings, changing their identities, and transferring their catches to other boats at sea illegally. One of the South Korean trawlers currently fishing in Somalia, Baek Yang 37, previously operated illegally in the waters of Sierra Leone's neighbour Guinea. Other boats in the fleet previously fished in Yemen and Oman before both countries banned bottom trawling. Experts say the clampdown on illegal and unsustainable fishing in many countries is prompting South Korean boats to search out fishing grounds in countries such as Somalia, where monitoring and control are weak and the payment of bribes to obtain licences is reportedly common. Under pressure from the EU, South Korea's government is reported to be taking steps to investigate its fishing fleet, establishing a monitoring centre and strengthening its ability to punish wrongdoers. Although it has not so far asked its vessels to leave Puntland, there are reports that authorities in Seoul have stopped signing the certificates required to export fish to the EU until the situation is clarified. The agent for the South Korean vessels, Captain Issa Farah of the North East Fishing Company, has declined to comment on the terms of the licences sold to them or the legality of their activities. The European Commission was contacted by Al Jazeera but has not commented on the case. It is likely that member states will be asked to increase checks on imports of fish from the Indian Ocean to ensure illegal catches from Somalia do not end up on European plates. A UN official - who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorised to talk to the media - warned illegal fishing does not only pose a threat to Somalia's fish resources. "The use of armed guards to protect fishing activity in Somalia risks leading to an escalation in the presence and use of weapons in Somali waters. Given the recent history of piracy, this is clearly a worrying situation." Andy Hickman worked on the Al Jazeera pirate fishing investigation in Sierra Leone Source:
  4. A missing British girl believed to be heading to join extremists in Syria could become a "jihadi bride" when she gets there.Yusra Hussien, 15, from Bristol, is thought to have met up with a 17-year-old girl from London, who has not been named, and headed to Turkey, where they are trying to cross the border into the neighbouring war-torn state.It is unclear how the teenagers met, but they both vanished from their homes last week amid fears they have been radicalised online. Yusra HussienExtremism expert Haras Rafiq from the Quilliam Foundation said the girl, if she joined up with IS, would most likely become a bride of one of the fighters.“She’s not a professional — she’s not a doctor, she’s not an engineer etc," he told The Sun (£).“It’s more than likely that she will become a jihadi bride.“She at the age of 15 will marry somebody who she considers to be a holy warrior and that’s how she will play a part in the jihad.”Safiya and Mohammed Hussien, her parents, made an emotional plea for her daughter to "please come home" at a press conference on Wednesday.They said: "Yusra, our daughter, is a very young bright bubbly girl who is loved by not only her family but her peers, teachers and her community."She's a typical teenager - she loves to play table tennis and to ride her bicycle and she used to run with her brother, who's the next Usain Bolt."Our family is very heartbroken and we are struggling to come to terms with this situation."The pain that we as parents feel, at not knowing her safety, is very distressing, and is something we believe every parent can relate to."There have been many assumptions and speculations claiming that Yusra is travelling to Syria, that she may be an extremist, or that she is planning to become a jihadist bride, all of which have not, as yet, been proved with any concrete evidence."We would like to make a request to the media to not state anything which is both incorrect and not backed by evidence.Family friends described her as an aspiring dentist and grade A* student.However, they said the girl had recently become tied to her mobile phone and computer after apparently viewing extremist material on chat rooms and forums online.Afzal Shah, a Labour councillor in Bristol, said it appeared the girl had "self-radicalised" rather than been exposed to such material through local institutions."The understanding that I have is that it was self-radicalisation as opposed to having anything to do with any institutions," Mr Shah said."There may possibly be other individuals involved but that's something the police are looking into. There are so many forums and chat rooms on the internet, it is very easy to get led astray."We don't know how she got to that stage, I don't know how long it has been going on for but certainly not long from speaking to the family."This is a young girl, she was an A* student, nobody had any indication of it whatsoever. She was very focused in her studies."Even when she would go to any reading circles she would be accompanied by a family member. She is a very intelligent individual."Her family are loving individuals who always put their children first. They are completely shocked."Yusra Hussien's mother Safiya speaking at a press conference on WednesdayMr Shah said the family had noticed the girl was "always on her phone and computer" but assumed it was normal teenage behaviour.The teenager left for school at The City Academy, Bristol, as usual on the morning of her disappearance but was not there when her father went to collect her that afternoon.She is not believed to have left any note or message for her family, who have not heard from her since.In a statement, the girl's family, who are Somali, said: "Please come back. We miss you very much. You are not in any trouble. We just want you to be safe and to come home as soon as possible."Officers are investigating whether the two girls travelled together from Heathrow Airport to Istanbul, Turkey, on their way to Syria.The girls' disappearance follows that of twins Zahra and Salma Halane, 16, from Manchester, who are thought to have travelled to Syria in July.British authorities have expressed increasing concerns about hundreds of UK-born would-be jihadis who have gone to join Islamist forces in the Middle Eastern state.Melanie Smith, a research associate at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, has previously said women are not actually fighting alongside male jihadis yet."There are pictures of them with an AK47 or in tanks but so far we think that's more of a status symbol," she told HuffPost UK last month. SEE ALSO: The Lives Of The British Jihadi Women Who Have Left To Fight With Islamic State British Fighter: 'I Miss Home But I Will Not Return To The UK' The 'Boring' Syrian City Turned Caliphate Capital Now The Target Of US Bombs Home Secretary Theresa May has already removed the passports of 25 Britons attempting to reach there, while 103 people have been arrested in relation to terrorism in Syria.Of those arrested, 24 have been charged and five convicted.But Mr Shah called for further measures to be enforced to ban children from travelling abroad, apart from with parental consent or in exceptional circumstances.He said police and the girl's family are examining how she came to board a flight to Turkey and it is not yet known how that was funded."But this also begs the question, how could a 15-year-old child be allowed to board a plane, just like that," he asked."My understanding is that the Border Agency staff have discretion or in fact the airlines have discretion. Well I think that discretion needs to be taken away from them."We need a lot clearer guidance from the Government and I would call on Theresa May to actually bring that within the new guidelines - to say that children, unless expressly given permission or unless there are exceptional circumstances, should not be able to board on their own."Louisa Rolfe, assistant chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police said the force were retracing the 15-year-old's footsteps from the time she left home to her arrival in Turkey.The London teenager, from Lambeth, is also of Somali descent and was last seen at around 7am on September 24 when she left her home.Ms Rolfe added that the priority was finding the Bristol girl before she crosses the border from Turkey to Syria."We're giving every support we can to her family; we want to find out where she is and encourage her to return safely," she said."Our officers are working closely with the Metropolitan Police and their network of international liaison officers to find her."There are indications she may have been radicalised but at the moment our priority is to find her before she crosses the border to Syria and make sure she is safe."Source:
  5. ST. CLOUD, MINN. – Almost every evening, Abdul Kulane walks the streets of modest houses near downtown, hopeful that when he rings doorbells he’ll get a warm reception from whoever answers.“Hello,” he says cheerfully through his Somali accent. “My name is Abdul. I am running for City Council.”Kulane, a 32-year-old graduate of St. John’s University, is one of two Somali council candidates this year, marking the first time that Somali-American citizens have filed for city election here. A third is running for school board. By all accounts, it’s a significant step in this central Minnesota town of about 65,000, which has had a history of cultural tension with the immigrant group.“It’s a sign of the times,” said Stephen Philion, professor of sociology at St. Cloud State University and chair of the nonprofit Greater Minnesota Worker Center. “They’ve organized the way that other [immigrant] groups previously have organized. Now they’re looking for a seat at the table … They’re a group that should no longer be taken as outsiders. They are St. Cloud.”Philion said the racial hostility they faced may have had unintended consequences of giving the Somali community “a greater sense of commitment to fighting for political power.”Kulane, who has lived in the city’s Ward 1 since 2006, is careful not to campaign on issues of diversity. He talks to potential constituents about crime, about property values, rental properties and abandoned houses, about revitalizing St. Cloud’s core neighborhoods.“It’s not a Somali issue, it’s a city issue,” he says.But he acknowledges, too, that part of the reason he’s running is to try to bridge a gap of misunderstanding between the immigrant community and the larger community.Last year, when leaders of the local Islamic Center tried to build a second and larger mosque on a vacant parcel of land in town, residents complained about traffic and parking, but city officials also were sent dozens of nasty e-mails and postings on the city’s website. Center leaders abandoned their building plans.In 2010, incidents of harassment against Somali students led to a Department of Education’s civil rights investigation in the school district.Also that year, a Somali grocery owner found red spray-painted graffiti saying “Go Home” on the front of his store; online, someone posted a threatening message about an upcoming Somali cultural event; cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed in derogatory ways were posted in front of a mosque and Somali-owned store.The racial strife dates to as early as 2002, a few years after Somalis began moving to the area in greater numbers.Somali leaders say that the incidents were the work of a small number of people, and that they trust the hatred is not the sentiment of most people in the region.Two of the three Somali candidates running for public office survived primary voting here in August: Kulane and incumbent Dave Masters survived a field of three to be on the November ballot; Hassan Yussuf remained in the top six — by one vote — out of seven original candidates for three school board spots.City Council candidate Ahmed Said was the only candidate to file against incumbent John Libert in Ward 3.New level of acceptanceIslamic Center of St. Cloud Imam Mohamed Dahir smiled brightly, his eyes sparkling when he talked about how excited and proud the Somali community is to see three candidates on the ballot, though the mosque doesn’t directly endorse candidates, he said.Immigrants view it as a sign of a new level of acceptance, he said: “That gap will be eliminated because people will learn more about you.”Jama Alimad, executive director of the nonprofit Community Grassroots Solution, which helps new immigrants write resumes and find jobs and housing, said the candidacies are “a big deal” in Somali circles, especially with two surviving primaries. The elections also are engaging the immigrant community to better understand democracy.“Everywhere you go, they are talking about this, [asking] is it possible?” he said. “This is America … Whoever is a citizen of this country that can vote are game changers.”Candidates know they won’t win on Somali votes alone. Though there are no credible statistics on how large the St. Cloud area Somali population might be, a common estimate is 8,000 to 10,000, Philion said. Some estimate more. Other estimates based on census data are as low as about 4,500 foreign-born people living here.Nearly one in five students in the St. Cloud Area School District are Somali language speakers.Yussuf, a tax preparer, said he decided to run for school board because education is important to him; he has a bachelor’s degree from St. Cloud State and a master’s from Minnesota State University, Mankato.He said he wants to engage more parents in narrowing the achievement gap. Though he unsuccessfully ran for school board in 2010, he said, this time the larger community has seemed more welcoming.“They respond better. They listen,” he said. “The fact that they listen to you shows that they care. I think the tension is dying.”Said, a medical interpreter, said he hasn’t been to Somalia in decades, doesn’t have close family there anymore, and fully considers St. Cloud his home — his three children were born here and will have a future here, he said.“It’s not about Somali-Americans running” for office, he said. “It’s about what’s good for this country.”Stressing neighborhood tiesThe first voter Kulane met on a recent afternoon was 85-year-old Billy Paschall, who has lived in his house for 36 years. Paschall looked skeptical when he opened the door, but quickly warmed up to Kulane.“Do you have any questions of me?” Kulane asked, dressed in a bright turquoise dress shirt. “Do you know your neighbors? … Part of why I’m running is to make sure that we are a community. Make sure that we get together.”Paschall, a stars-and-stripes baseball cap atop his head, nodded softly. He’d seen Kulane’s brochure, he said, and he liked Kulane’s ideas.Yes, Paschall said, he could count on his vote in November.Paschall, a retired sociology professor from St. Cloud State University, said later he was glad to see Somalis running for office.“When I came here somebody told me that they called it ‘White Cloud,’ but there’s been a lot of change,” he said. “Even if [Kulane] doesn’t win, I think it’ll be a good experience for the city to get acquainted with a Somali and to see that his concerns are very much what a lot of other citizens’ are.”Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102Source:
  6. Digital Journal - Initially designated as a school project, the Mogadishu Diaries developed into a much sought after video series as it caught the attention of the Somali public, especially its youthful fraternity starved off original Somali stories. Written, directed and produced by Abla Elmi, an Honours Double Major in Human Rights & Equity Studies and Film, the six part series takes viewers through episodes that cover among others; an introduction to the history of Somalia, arrival in Mogadishu (for filming), the arts and cultural scene, Diaspora kids, inspirational people and a parody of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (titled ‘the Fresh Prince of Mogadishu’). The 22 year old York University student left behind her comfortable life in Toronto, Canada, last summer, to spend time on the ground in Somalia to document the video series from June 30th to August 20th 2013.In an exclusive interview with the Digital Journal, Abla discussed the firsthand experience she had with the people of Somalia whom she engaged through a series of interviews that delved into virtually every aspect of the Somali life.“Well if I’m being honest, this was my final assignment for my self-designed course, so that I could earn credit (towards my degree) from my school for the work I was doing in Somalia. But this video series is so much more than an assignment for me. In fact, it was a long time coming. Originally, I was just going to create something short and hand it in only to my professor. But then more and more of my friends started reaching out to me asking me to share my footage with them. A lot of them hadn’t ever been to Somalia, or had left when they were really little, so they were eager for any and all info they could get” said Abla. Mogadishu Diaries filmmaker, Abla Elmi, sifting through sands at the Jazeera Beach on the outskirts of the Somali Capital.. Following incessant requests from her friends, Abla was prompted to post the engaging, thought-provoking footage on YouTube. She made the all important decision despite the fact that she was still developing her production skills on the path to becoming a full-fledged filmmaker in the near future. “I was initially very shy about making my work public, because I am my own worst critic. My family and friends, are really sweet, and have only encouraging words to share when I show them my work. But for me, I am a bit of a perfectionist. I only ever want to put out my best work. I know that the quality of my editing is quite shoddy, and most definitely isn’t the best work I can produce. Don’t get me wrong though. I am really proud of myself because everything I’ve learned about photography, video editing, and filmmaking in general, I’ve taught myself”’ she said. Since her young circle could not wait for an intricate, professionally developed work, it dawned on Abla that she had to learn on the go as she progressed toward her future professional goals in the film arena. “Video editing is still very new to me, and this project in particular is not anywhere near what I wanted my debut project to look like. But there was a story that needed to be told, and it wasn’t mine to keep to myself. When I first started editing photos, I remember the first two pictures were blue and orange, and I remember showing it off to everyone like it was the coolest thing EVER. Can you imagine? I get embarrassed just thinking about it. But I had to go through that to get to where I am today.” Mogadishu Sea Port. Mogadishu, Somalia. With her sights set on becoming a professional documentarian, Abla aims for groundbreaking storytelling initiatives that encourages her interviewees to come out of their comfort zones while ensuring she conforms to the same norms. “I’m interested in becoming a professional documentarian one day, and I’m hoping that not only will people allow me to help them share their stories, but I’ll be asking them to go so far out of their comfort zone, to let me share some of the most private and intimate details of their lives with the whole world. If I wasn’t willing to go out of my own comfort zone, and get in front of the camera for something as small as my own video series, how was I ever going to be able to ask people to do the same?” Driven by her humanitarian values, Abla understands well that forging a two-way trust is key to engaging her people as she makes further inroads in filmmaking. “For me, as a humanitarian, people are so important to me. I strive to become a person whose whole purpose in life is to help the vulnerable and the helpless rediscover their dignity and independence. I could never ask people to put themselves in a vulnerable position, or to put their trust in me, if I wasn’t willing to do it myself. There is no way I would ever feel comfortable asking others to be in front of my camera if I weren’t willing to do the same. Abla (left), with SNA Lieutenant, Iman, (right). Abla setting up for a rooftop interview with Iman, the 21 year old female Somali National Army (SNA) Lieutenant from Canada. The images global audiences are accustomed to about Somalia are largely those emanating from mainstream media. With this in mind, Abla emphasizes that independent filmmaking, especially Somali-based like hers, is critical in presenting accurate accounts on events taking place in the country. “Well my entire life I’ve been fascinated by people’s stories, their hopes and dreams, etc. And the same can be said for Somalia. I’ve wanted to discover Somalia for myself for the longest time, not the Somalia that the media reports on, but the Somalia that I grew up hearing about from my family. And one piece of advice that I got from my older brother growing up was to never just believe a single account of anything I hear or read. To always keep an open mind, and to thoroughly research a subject before I form an opinion. And I never fully understood what he meant until I personally experienced this myself. All I grew up hearing about Somalia was everything we heard about in the news, from pirates and terrorists, to famine and war etc. But I wanted to know more about the Somalia my parents told me about, the one where real people existed, with real stories and real lives. So that’s kind of how the ‘Mogadishu Diaries’ was born.” said Abla. “For me, diaries/journals are where people write down their most honest, and real thoughts, so that’s what I wanted this video project to be: the realest and most neutral telling of Somalia’s story that I could depict. In Somalia, I found that despite the war, despite the chaos, the hunger, poverty, and catastrophe, there were real people, with hopes and dreams, who were living out their very real lives. Their lives were set in a different setting from ours, but that doesn’t in any way diminish the importance of their lives. I’m not going to deny that a large part of Africa is experiencing everything you see on television, which is poverty, famine, destitution, etc. But then again, don’t we have the same problems here in our own countries? There are the homeless, and people who live in extreme poverty. They just look and are presented differently than those images we get from Africa,” she said. A female AMISON official debriefing the heads of the Djibouti forces based in Belet- Weyne, Somalia. A rooftop view of Mogadishu, Somalia. According to Abla, the Mogadishu Diaries are not only about reporting, but also about establishing the truth, particularly on the skewed media representation of Somalia. “I know the truth is multi-dimensional, in that two people can witness the same thing but go away with two different versions of what happened. Doesn’t mean that one version is more correct than the other, it just means that they interpreted the event differently, which created their version of the ‘truth’. But mainstream media is so concerned with shaping public opinion, dictating to the public who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong.’ So I hope to see more media/films that tell a story from a neutral perspective, devoid of their own biases and opinions and allow the viewer to make up their own minds. I feel like we’d have such a different society then. One that is more educated, intellectual, and open-minded.” Abla observes that life in Mogadishu is not as grim as many are led to believe. “Somalia is nothing like the way the media portrays it. Yes, there are attacks, poverty, hunger, etc. But what it chooses not to portray is that despite the war, Somalia is home to all kinds of people, from an assortment of backgrounds. It’s where real people still exist, are born and are laid to rest there, get married and start families, go to school and get their education. It’s where real human beings like you and me exist, with hopes and dreams of their own. That was what my video series was trying to capture.” Abla Elmi (second left), posing with Diaspora youth from England, Finland and America. As illustrated in the Mogadishu Diaries, the people of Somalia are resilient despite adversity and daily challenges of life. “The Somali people are some of the strongest people I have ever met. They are the very definition of survivors. They remain resilient and inspiring. Give them a little peace and see what they create. Over and over again, they have to start their lives over, and yet somehow they manage to carve out a life for themselves and for their families. Its mind boggling” said Abla. After recent gains in the security front following a string of military successes by the Somali National Army (SNA) and the African Union (AMISOM) peacekeepers in the war-ravaged nation, Abla notes Somalia is once again bustling with life. “I remember in my ‘Arrival’ episode, I was recounting what I had imagined Somalia was going to look like. I honestly had no idea what to imagine. I mean the country had been at war with itself for the last 20+ years. But what I saw when I arrived was definitely not within my realm of imagination. Within the little amount of peace they had, the Somali people had begun to rebuild themselves. Mogadishu, the capital city, was bustling, and there was construction going on everywhere” stated Abla, adding that “what really touched me though was that the city was pulsating, with this new sense of hope and life. And it is something you would get caught up in. Everyone wakes up with a sense of purpose, with something to do, and it makes you feel like you should have something you should be doing with your life as well.” Somali painters featured in the Mogadishu Diaries. The landing of foreigners on Somali soil Abla points out, attests to the fact that normalcy is returning to the recovering nation. “Something that amazed me was that there were people from all over the world in Somalia. I met people from China, Russia, Netherlands, Sri Lanka, India, America, England, Djibouti, Dubai, Turkey etc. Like a variety of countries that I just wasn’t expecting. And it made me hopeful, because if Somalia could attract people from an assortment of nations to leave the safety of their homes and come to pursue their interests in Somalia, then Somalia really couldn’t be as bad as people would like us to believe” she said. The role of Diaspora youth is critical in shaping prevailing perceptions on Somalia as well as participating in national reconstruction. The Mogadishu Diaries dedicate an entire episode on Diaspora kids. Abla is optimistic about the role of Somali youth, both the diaspora-based and their local counterparts. “I think the Diaspora will play an important role in rebuilding and reshaping Somalia. But I think what’s even more important for our Diaspora youth to remember is the local youth. Without the locals, we wouldn’t have a Somalia to go back to. So we need to respect, be thankful and grateful for the roles they have played in keeping our country alive. Not looking and treating them like placeholders, as I’ve witnessed people doing. We are not better than them. We are equals. And we need to treat them as equals. Because if we don’t, the new problem that is going to arise in Somalia will no longer be based in clannism, but rather will be between the Diaspora vs. Locals, and it won’t be pretty.” A portrait of Queen Ceebla Caraweela, taken from the collection of a Somali painter. Behind the Scenes shot from Episode 0.5 - 'The Fresh Prince of Mogadishu' (a parody of the theme song from the TV show 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'. According to Abla, unlocking the keys to better governance in Somalia would require the unity and mutual collaboration between returning diaspora Somalis and their brethren in the homeland. “If we work together, I think we have so much to bring to the table. We as the Diaspora, have gotten a chance to grow up in government systems that are functioning, we have studied different ideologies, and learned what relatively democratic societies look like, so we can bring an entirely new and fresh way of thinking to Somalia. The locals on the other hand, are the preservers of our country and our culture. They can help us mesh our ‘fresh’ thinking with what’s important to our culture and our people, and together we can create a new way of governing that works for Somalia” said Abla. Abla taking landscape pictures of Mogadishu, on board a ship docked in the Sea Port. A ‘local’ born and raised baby in Somalia. An entire episode in the Diaries is dedicated to the artistic community. Abla believes that the civil war in Somalia and resultant extremism has had an adverse effect on a previously rich and vibrant arts sector. “Well the thing is that we as Somali people, are artistic by nature. Art is ingrained so much in our culture. To be Somali, is to be an artist. But at the same time, we are also Muslims. Before the war, the majority of Somalis (not all obviously, but a large segment) of Somalis were mostly liberal. But after the War, I guess people needed something to turn to, and they turned to religion and to God. But thanks to the chaos of the war, and the birth of terrorist organizations like Al-Shabaab who force their will and their distorted version of Islam on people, art has really and truly suffered in Somalia.” When it comes to religion, Abla says that people should refrain from being judgmental over the acts of others as she believes only God is the sole and ultimate Judge. She calls upon people to spread love, peace and kindness to fellow human beings in accordance with the beautiful teachings of Islam. “For me, religion is between you and your God. Only He can really and truly determine what is in your heart and your intentions. Obviously we are human beings. By our very nature, we are prone to make mistakes. But I don’t think that it is our place as fellow human beings to judge others based on their mistakes or acts. You might look at a person and think that person isn’t what you think a traditionally ‘good and proper’ Muslim might look like, but on the inside, they may be 10 times better than you, and their relationship with God may be much stronger than yours is.” Boys walking back home after chores near the Djibouti AMISOM base in Belet-Weyne, Somalia. Boys posing for a picture near a Mogadishu monument. Further on the artistic scene, the series reveals that despite war and extremism, a functioning, but albeit a struggling arts scene still exists in Somalia. “When I got a chance to interview a lot of the artists, they told me stories about how they had lived in fear for most of the war. One painter in particular, showed me a collection of paintings that he had created when the war was particularly bad, and he thought that for sure he was going to die. He had wanted to leave something of himself behind, so he created this collection of beautiful images documenting Somalia’s history. Another told me about how he had repeatedly been threatened by Al-Shabaab, and told that if he didn’t stop painting, they would kill him. But this was their culture. They wanted to keep hold of it so that one day, when things got better, they could impart their knowledge to the next generation” recalled Abla. “Like the Somali people, these artists; musicians, poets etc, have been resilient. The war has had an effect on their work but by definition, they are survivors. And that is what the art scene in Somalia is doing. Surviving!” Abla holds the view that people should not be deterred by the tenuous security situation in Somalia. “I remember when I was telling people that I was heading to Somalia they would question why I would ever want to leave my comfortable and relatively ‘safe’ life in the West to go back to Somalia. A lot of people’s opinions are tainted by what the news is reporting about Somalia. But for those that are so concerned with my safety, first I’d like to say ‘thank you’. And second, I’d like every one to give themselves a slight reality check. As morbid as it sounds, we are all gonna die one day. Whether it’s getting hit by a bus in the ‘bubble of safety’ we consider the West, because we aren’t at war or whether I get shot in Somalia” said Abla. Loox: the wooden tablets that students use during their madarasa/duxi lessons to learn the Quran. A student in a duxi, reciting her Quranic assignment to her teacher. “As hard as it is to imagine, there are really a million ways to die. Your location doesn’t matter. Obviously you take precautions. I believe that I am going to die one day, but until it’s my time, I believe in God’s protection. And what’s greater than that?” Public safety, Abla argues, is equally of concern to many skeptics, even among those living in the supposedly safest havens on the planet. “You are not guaranteed a longer life by living in a relatively “safer” country. Just ask the parents of Travon Martin, or the Sandy Hook Elementary students, Virginia Tech, or Columbine, or even my own parents. There isn’t really any rhyme or reason, a specific age. All I understand about death is that, as painful and life altering it is, it happens. So if you can’t stop it, and it’s going to happen anyway, why not live your life the way you want to? Not the way society thinks you should” queried Abla. Taking a leaf from Christopher Reeve, the late American actor/film director, Abla’s definition of a hero/inspiring person sheds light on the daily struggles of the common person. “There’s this quote by Christopher Reeve that sums up word for word my definition of a hero. He says, ‘I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles’. What I admire the most about the people I met in Somalia is that they weren’t living their lives as renowned activists like Mandela, or Martin Luther King Jr. I spotted more Rosa Parks and Malala’s out there, and they don’t even realize how their simple actions could inspire a nation” she said. “To them, they are just trying to live their lives as best and as true as they can. In my video, I was able to get only 3, but my goal is hopefully to counter the media’s perception of Somalia by showcasing these people, and this side of Somalia. Whether it is foreigners who get injured during an attack, but are already looking forward to the next time they want to return to Somalia, because they are inspired by this country and it’s people, and they genuinely want to be a part of helping, or our own locals” she said. A calf (foreground) at a Somali Camel farm. In one of the episodes, the series highlights how the people are determined to carry on with life and rebuild their nation regardless of prevailing security challenges. “Daily, I had met people who have grown up in this conflict, and yet stubbornly refuse to see the Somalia that is painted for them by the rest of the world. To them, this is their home, and their lot in life. So they roll with the punches, and they ask you the most poignant question, “Do you think your life is more valuable than ours”? That’s a question people need to answer for themselves, but for me, the answer is a resounding, “NO”. And I hope that I get the chance to share their stories. They’ll have you reevaluating your life. I know they have managed to change mine.” While filmmaking can be a strenuous, grueling work, Abla is determined to maintain her independence in the overall pursuit of her goals. “I think this project has definitely opened my eyes to how much hard work goes into video production, no matter how small. I remember going into this project being a very independent person. Everything I’ve learned about filmmaking, I’ve taught myself, and I just hate the idea of having to ask others for help, or being reliant on anyone else. Which is so weird because I love helping people out, it’s the whole reason I’m doing what I’m doing. But I guess, I just like knowing that I don’t need anyone’s permission or need to rely on anyone else to create what I want” she said. A scenic view of Liidho Beach, Mogadishu, Somalia. In terms of lessons learned, Abla says teamwork is critical to any filmmaking project, independent or otherwise. “If this video project has taught me anything, it is the value of teamwork. Creating videos is such hard work. You wouldn’t think so watching a 5 second commercial, your favourite TV shows, or even the news. We totally take all of this for granted. But these things don’t magically just come together. They take a lot of very different, dedicated, and hard working individuals to bring everything together. Making videos is definitely not a singular experience; it is very much a team sport” said Abla. Ultimately, Abla hopes to become a film director. “I guess I’m going to continue to hone my craft. Obviously editing is not my strong suit. But I have no desire to be a video editor. My ultimate dream is to be a ‘director’. But until I hook up with other amazing individuals who can help out with the workload, I need to know how to do everything myself. I’ve already got some new video ideas. But this experience has definitely exhausted me. So I guess I’ll keep jotting down my ideas until I either manage to connect with some like–minded individuals who are interested in collaborating on a new project, or the urge to create something else becomes too much to ignore and I just go at it again by myself. Who knows what’ll come first." Abla is heading back to Somalia, to do further work on the ground. “For now, I’ve managed to convince my department to allow me to do my last year online, so that I travel. I’m headed back to Somalia to partake in an internship out there, and to do research. So I’m creating a photography page to document my travels, and to capture the stories of the people I meet along the way,” concluded Abla. For people interested in the Mogadishu Diaries, Abla Elmi can be reached at: Email: Instagram: @lensofarebel Blog: Facebook : Photography page (currently still under construction): Farid Omar is a Digital Journalist based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Source: Source:
  7. Instead of being talked about they want to be heard. They say they are the victims of recruitment and community leaders can dream up all the solutions in the world but Jama and Jeilani know why kids go, because they've lived it."Our standard of living here is so bad that kids would rather join these terrorist organizations and go to their death," Jeilani said.Jama co-founded the Cedar Riverside Youth Council in 2007 to bring young adults like them together. Jeilani is now the president of the council. Together the two say it's their way to fight terrorism."The only way to combat ideology is with another ideology and that is 'Hey you graduated from high school. There are these opportunities for you. This is America, the land of the dream. Take part of it'" Jama said.While they weren't invited to share their message at the table this time, they hope their community will listen before they lose more young lives."Them kids that are being neglected in the community are the ones out on the streets," Jeilani said.Source:
  8. Many Somalis have returned home in recent years as security has improved Residents of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, are feeling safer and more optimistic than they were a year ago, according to a new survey. The Heritage Institute of Policy Studies, which analysed data collected from more than 1,600 residents, said people reported a decline in violence.However, serious concerns remain, such as attacks by Islamist group al-Shabab, and mistrust of the security services.Somalia has been ravaged by conflict for more than two decades.Thousands of Somalis have been returning from abroad to help rebuild the country as security has improved in recent years. But life remains grim for the thousands of people who live in Mogadishu's refugee campsAl-Shabab was forced out of Mogadishu in 2011 but still stages frequent attacks in the city and controls many rural areas.In February, its fighters stormed Villa Somalia, a large complex which houses the presidential palace and other government institutions, killing 11 people.Analysis: Mary Harper, BBC Somali expertAlthough most of those interviewed for the survey feel safer and more optimistic than they did last year, the fact that they still have major security concerns shows the vast challenges facing the Somali government and its international supporters.The fear of increased attacks by Islamist insurgents and others, the deep mistrust of the judiciary and the security forces, and the violent land disputes would, in most countries, be considered an unacceptably insecure environment in which to live.But for Somalis in Mogadishu, this is seen as an improvement compared to the intense violence they have endured for the past two decades.Somalia, particularly the southern and central regions, still has a long way to go, both in terms of security and institution-building.But optimism and resilience are key parts of that journey, and if they can be harnessed by the government and others responsible for improving life in Somalia, they could help propel the country towards a better future at last.According to the report, "the overwhelming majority of respondents stated that they had not witnessed clan or group conflict in the last 12 months".However, many people still say they are concerned about disputes between different clans, and al-Shabab attacks.They also said they did not trust the security forces of the judiciary.In one area, 66% of respondents say they preferred to report civil matters to traditional elders, with just 7% going to the police.Only 13% said they trusted the courts, compared to 48% for traditional leaders and 29% for religious leaders.The African Union has some 22,000 troops in Somalia, in support of the UN-backed government. The African Union has helped the government retake territory from al-Shabab Source:
  9. The UAE’s golden girl, Aliah Saeed Mohammad, has set a lofty target for a medal at next year’s World Athletics Championship in Beijing. A day after winning her first Asian Games gold medal in the women’s 10,000 metres at the Asiad Main Stadium on Saturday, Aliah made it clear she would be taking the next step forward in her career as a professional athlete. “These Asian Games were a crucial test for me on a personal level. I wanted to see where I stand on the Asian stage and this gold medal tells me how good I really am in this distance. I realise I need to make the next step now as a professional athlete and the next big event for me to test my ability will be the World Championships,” Aliah told Gulf News. The 15th IAAF World Championships are scheduled to be held at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing, China from August 22-30 next year, making it the biggest event to be held at the iconic stadium after the 2008 Olympic Games. The gold medal performance was recognised by the UAE as she was presented with an undisclosed cash incentive late on Saturday. The 23-year-old has been making steady progress under her coach Abdi Bile, a former two-time Somalian Olympian and champion world middle distance runner from the late 1980s. Her performance in the 10,000 metres on Saturday improved her world rankings position to 46, while she sits at No 136 in the rankings for the 5,000 metres. On Saturday, she ran with a bloodied foot due to a blister that erupted during the course of the race. She was quite pragmatic about the minor injury as she went and got a medic to treat it before returning to join her colleagues in celebrating her gold medal. ‘New era’ “It’s really not important to believe in the rankings after a certain stage. We had a strong field in the women’s 10,000 metres and who would have expected Aliah Saeed to come home with the gold medal if one was to go as per the times, records and rankings of all the runners?,” she asked. “I think I have reached a stage where I have to go out there on the field, use my mind and my heart and accordingly run my own race. The good thing is that I have made a start to a new era of my career.” Born Medina Kadir on May 18, 1991 Aliah switched nationalities with the UAE from her native Ethiopia in 2010. Since then, she has been breaking through the elite field of long-distance runners. “I am Emirati now. I don’t remember too much about Ethiopia. That is history to me,” Aliah said.Source:
  10. The brother of Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah could be deported from Britain after being released early from prison.Ahmed Farah, 25, a younger brother of the long-distance runner, is said to be waiting to hear if he is to be sent back to his native Somalia.He was jailed for false imprisonment for his part in a knife raid in Southall, West London in 2010. Dungavel House, the Home Office detention centre in Lanarkshire, where it is reported that Ahmed Farah is being held Ahmed, the younger brother of Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah, pictured, could be deported from Britain But it is now thought that after being freed early from a four-and-a-half year prison sentence, the Home Office want to remove him from the country.According to the Sun, the case to deport him began in Scotland in April but collapsed due to a delay between hearings. Omar Farah, another brother of the Olympic athlete, who was jailed last week He is now being held at the Dungavel detention centre in Lanarkshire, while awaiting a date for a new immigration tribunal.The Home Office refused to comment on the case. It is understood Farah moved to Britain from Somalia with this 31-year-old brother, but never became a British citizen. It is thought the pair no longer keep in touch.The runner's agent refused to comment on the case. The case comes just a week after the athlete's other brother, Omar, was jailed after trying to break into an elderly couple's home.The 21-year-old of Brentford, who has 15 previous convictions, was caught trying to break into the pensioners' home after visiting his girlfriend in west London.He pleaded guilty to one count of attempted burglary with intent to steal at Kingston Crown Court last week.He had previously spoken about the support Mo, 31, had given him, seeing him as a role model, while in a 2013 interview he said he had been training as a graphic designer in a bid to avoid getting into trouble.But a judge branded his criminal record 'unimpressive', although the court heard he had not committed any further crimes since he tried breaking into the pensioner's home at on March 2 last year.Source:
  11. “Poetry is so ingrained in the Somali culture I can’t not write poetry,” says Hamda Yusuf, her eyes glittering behind big tortoise shell glasses, “There’s poetry in the way my mother makes food, there’s poetry in the way my father… makes tea, there’s poetry in so much of what my family and my people do — I can never stop.”That urgency — to share the beauty and struggle of her community and her own life — is evident in much of 20-year-old Yusuf’s poetry. Her poems are as likely to explore memories of her childhood in Somalia, as they are to take on “quinoa and kale chip” Seattle culture or tackle misconceptions about her headscarf. And Yusuf is only one of a growing number of young Seattle-area poets who draw on complex international identities and themes in their work.“We work with a lot of young folks that are first generation and second generation immigrants,” says Shelby Handler of Youth Speaks Seattle, a collective for youth spoken word poetry (Yusuf was a member until she recently “aged out”). Handler says many of their young poets explore international identities through their work, “In Seattle it’s really important to honor that…wider perspective and international lens.”For Everett-based poet Ibtihal Mahmood, that international lens is turned on war.“I’m a child of war,” says Mahmood, 31, who was born in Kuwait but raised in Jordan when her family was forced to resettle due to the first Gulf War. It was the second time that Mahmood’s parents — both refugees of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War — had to make a new home due to conflict.In response to that experience, her family’s history and what Mahmood calls “a world in crisis,” her poetry often takes on global conflict, but with a subtlety that feels less like direct political critique than rumination on the very nature of violence.“The goal is to write something that can apply to human conflict, the human condition, at any time and in any place” says Mahmood before reciting her recent poem “War” which references “black honey” and dispatched “hornets” — both timeless symbols of desire and danger as well as contemporary allusions to oil and drones.Where Yusuf and Mahmood infuse global politics and themes into their work, 25-year-old Boeing Engineer Zubair Ahmed says that the power of language (and of being multilingual) is the greatest international influence on his work.“You know how you can have different thoughts if you speak different languages?” asks Ahmed who says that listening to his parents speak Bengali (his family won a visa lottery and moved from Bangladesh to Texas when he was a teenager) inspires and influences his English language poetry. He claims to “suck” at writing poetry in Bengali.“In Bengali we have this phrase, gaa-e laghe,” says Ahmed explaining that one English translation might be: Someone’s words hit or touched me physically. It’s clear that bilingual wordplay like this ignites his imagination, “like words can hit your body in Bengal,” he says with excitement in his voice.While Ahmed’s approach to language is intrinsically international, the recent work he shared with me (by phone, in his car parked overlooking “beautiful Silver Lake”) includeda sea “that lists names,” homeless teenagers and mountain deer “that dream of eating more than grass.”It evoked strong Pacific Northwest imagery — or at least it did for me.And that collapsing of borders and expansiveness of meaning is what makes these international voices so powerful, distinct and universal.“I’ve found that whether I want to write something for everyone to understand or just a few people to understand, everyone understands it anyway,” says Yusuf from a bench on the University of Washington campus where she’s a Junior in International Studies (she hopes to become the Ambassador to Somalia someday) “Because they will place themselves inside that poem.”If you want to place yourselves inside their poetry, check out Mahmood at her reading at Dahlak Eritrean Cuisine on Beacon Hill this Saturday at 4:30PM, find Ahmed’s book “City of Rivers” on Amazon and look up on your next Metro Bus ride— Yusuf’s poem on the topic of “home” will be part of the “Poetry on Buses” project launching this November.Source:
  12. Not even the specter of a spillover of Islamic extremism from Somalia can dampen the atmosphere in Kenya, where commercial oil production is expected to begin in 2016 and discovery after discovery has made this the hottest and fastest-paced hydrocarbon scene on the continent. When it comes to new oil and gas frontiers, today it's all about Africa. And more specifically, it's all about the eastern coast, with Kenya the clear darling -- not just because it's outpacing neighboring Uganda by leaps and bounds, but also because despite some political instability hiccups and the threat of militant al-Shabaab, it's still one of the safest venues in the region. Six of the last 10 biggest finds have been in Africa, where -- all told -- there are some 130 billion barrels of crude oil waiting to be tapped by more than 500 companies, according to a recent report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Topping this list are Kenya's Anza and South Lokichar basins where the discovery and development news has been fast-paced. In the last days of August, Tullow Oil--the British explorer behind Kenya's oil discovery debut in 2012--announced another oil find that will extend the already proven South Lokichar basin "significantly northwards". Earlier this year, in May, Tullow and partner Africa Oil Corporation left a hefty impression on the market with the announcement of the country's first commercial oil discovery, worth $10 billion, in this basin. And the next testing ground will be the neighboring Kerio Basin, which should get off the ground later this month, while there has been a flurry of attention lately surrounding the Ogaden basin where initial estimates are enough to send stocks soaring. In the meantime, while bigger players such as Tullow and Africa Oil have benefited from the fame of their initial discoveries, they have also become burdened by the pressure of rising expectations for more discoveries. Not so the smaller players on this scene, who stand to benefit from the original discoveries and continued drilling--without the pressure. Investors will now be looking at who is poised to make the next discovery. Africa Oil and Marathon are currently drilling an appraisal well on the Sala gas discovery in the Anza Graben Basin onshore Kenya, which will benefit other explorers with acreage just south of this, including UK-listed Afren Plc, UK-listed Tower Resources and Taipan Resources Inc (TPN-TSK), which has two onshore blocks in key basins. If these explorers come up with their own first find, it will be a superior risk-reward scenario. In the Ogaden Basin, the market will certainly take notice of Afren's new estimates late last month that a large under-explored sub-basin, El Wak, contains up to 6.65 billion barrels of oil. If this estimate is accurate--and it comes in well above partner Taipan Resources' earlier estimates of about a quarter of that--they would be looking at the largest onshore target ever drilled anywhere in Africa. Later this year, Afren will be conducting seismic surveys to further define El Wak's potential, and investors will be watching closely. The bigger picture, though, is of an East African country that has the advantage over its neighbors due to a convergence of add-on factors, including infrastructure aims, relative stability and what appears to be a smarter use of natural resources to generate more investment and economic growth, according to Jennifer Cooke of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Among other planned infrastructure projects of a massive scale, discussions are under way for a pipeline from neighboring Uganda, which would pass through the South Lokichar basin and come close enough to some of the prime drilling areas that could be the site of Kenya's next discoveries. The World Bank's approval in July of $50 million for the Kenyan government to boost its management and distribution of natural resource revenues, with an eye on long-term sustainable growth, has further boosted confidence in long-term sustainable growth. In the meantime, political stability has also been given a slight reprieve with the International Criminal Court's (ICC) indefinite adjournment of the trial against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta due to lack of evidence that he organized post-election ethnic violence in 2007. But the security situation with the regrouping of the Somalia-based al-Shabaab militant group and an uptick of the group's apparent attacks on Kenya continue to be problematic, even more so because no one seems to be sure whether the threat is emanating entirely from al-Shabaab. While this remains a clear threat, it has not affected exploration and development--and it certainly has done little to scare foreign investors from this hydrocarbon frenzy that is expected to continue over the next five years, further boosted by relatively cheap exploration licenses. In this race, Kenya is the top contender, moving forward at double the speed of neighboring Uganda which discovered oil in 2006, six years before Kenya, but will lag a year behind the newcomer in terms of commercial production. source:
  13. A Muslim student at a top girls’ school has yet to start her A-levels because of a row over her wearing a full-face veil, it was revealed today. The unnamed 16-year-old pupil, who has attended Camden School for Girls in north London for the past five years without wearing the niqab, wants to enter the coeducational sixth form.But headmistress Elizabeth Kitcatt is understood to have banned her from joining the sixth form if she insists on wearing the full-face veil - because it goes against school rules. Uniform policy: The unnamed 16-year-old pupil, who has attended Camden School for Girls (pictured) in north London for the past five years without wearing the niqab, wants to enter the coeducational sixth form The girl wants to wear the traditional Muslim veil so that her face and hair are covered while she studies - and more than 700 people have signed a petition calling the school’s move ‘Islamophobic’.Her sister Sagal Ahmed, 18, insisted the school’s refusal to let the girl wear a niqab had been ‘very upsetting’. She said: ‘My sister just wants to wear the niqab for her reasons and attend a school.‘I don’t feel like her education should be compromised or the way she dresses should affect the way anyone looks at her.’The school’s sixth form does not have a uniform, but has a dress code which it expects all students to follow. The headmistress said in a statement that they do not comment on individual cases. Full-face covering: The girl's sister insisted the school's refusal to let her wear a niqab (file picture) has been 'very upsetting' Mrs Kitcatt, 55, added: ‘We have an appearance policy and students at the school may wear what they wish subject to any requirement in the interests of teaching and learning, health and safety. Inappropriate dress which offends public decency or which does not allow teacher-student interactions will be challenged.’A petition headed ‘Stop the Islamophobia’ has been started by an anonymous protester on the website.It says: ‘Camden School for Girls Sixth Form has refused to allow a 16-year-old student to study at the school as she wears a niqab. A niqab is a full veil that covers part of the face, only revealing the eyes.‘The student has been studying at Camden School for Girls for five years. She sat her GCSEs this summer, and initially received a C in English language, which meant she could not attend the sixth form.‘However, just a few weeks ago, the school called her up and informed her that she actually achieved an A grade, meaning that she could attend the sixth form she had been intending to go to.‘This was amazing, right? She would be back with the same teachers, friends and place again.‘But there was one problem: the niqab. The student only started to wear the niqab this year, and even sat her GCSE exams wearing the veil.‘But this time, when the student returned to the school, wearing the niqab, a teacher claimed that she could not be allowed to study at the school.’The petitioner claimed some students at the school wore the niqab in the past, adding: ‘This school is renowned for its “individuality” and “strong feminist views”.'However, this poorly thought out decision made by the school contradicts this. What happened to ‘freedom of expression’?’ 'I don't feel like her education should be compromised or the way she dresses should affect the way anyone looks at her'Sagal Ahmed, sister A former girl pupil who supports the petition, Farhana Khanom, commented on the website: ‘I went to Camden School for Girls and many girls wore veils and were allowed to do so.‘This school had a reputation. And now discriminating (against) people that made their own choice to wear what they feel is utterly disgusting. ‘Former pupils at the school include Sarah Brown, the wife of former prime minister Gordon Brown, singer Geri Halliwell, and actresses Emma Thompson and Tamsin Greig.Source:
  14. As a bright, eager student at Cambridge University, with one degree already under her belt, Nabilah Phillips could look forward to a successful career and comfortable future.After completing her engineering PhD she would, perhaps, take up a coveted, highly-paid job in industry, or stay on as an academic lecturing the next generation.Instead, however, Nabilah, now 35, took an extremely unexpected path. Hasan Phillips takes a stroll in the park with his three wives and children - there are an estimated 20,000 polygamous marriages taking place in Britain Hasan pictured with Nabilah, who he met on a Muslim dating service - the couple have two children She abandoned her studies, forfeiting her hard-won university place and entered a polygamous marriage, becoming the second wife of London businessman Hasan Phillips, 32 — who has since acquired a third wife.Nabilah, her husband and his two other wives are part of a growing number of polygamous marriages taking place in Britain. They are rubber-stamped under Sharia law, which considers polygamy completely legitimate as Muslim men are permitted to take up to four wives.It is, of course, in complete contradiction to UK law, under which bigamy is illegal and can result in a prison sentence of up to seven years.But as such marriages are not recognised by English courts — and around 70 to 75 per cent of Muslim weddings go unregistered — those who marry under the system are not subject to prosecution.As a result, the practice is becoming increasingly commonplace across Britain, with 20,000 polygamous marriages now estimated to have taken place here.So what does Nabilah have to say about a marriage that would be anathema to most British women?‘I really enjoy being in a polygamous relationship,’ she insists, her face covered with a Muslim veil, known as a niqab, at the request of her husband.‘We are not stupid people who are forced into this type of relationship,’ she adds, laughing.‘I was looking for someone who had been married or was already in a marriage. I was married before, and having gone through one divorce, you kind of know what you want in marriage. So I wanted someone who already knows how to be a husband.’ Hasan and his three wives from left to right, Nabilah, 35, Sakinah, 33, and Anub, 41 Indeed, Nabilah met Hasan after signing up to a Muslim dating service — her first husband having left just days after their marriage — with the specific intention of trying to find a married man so she could become a ‘co-wife’, as such women are called.Such is the popularity of polygamy among British Muslims that the East London-based company Muslim Marriage Event, which united Nabilah and her husband, is receiving a growing number of requests for such unions. Owner Mizan Raja says the number of people looking for such arrangements has soared in recent years.The rise of polygamous marriage in Britain is the controversial subject of a new Channel 4 TV series, The Men With Many Wives, which shines a new light on the controversial practice.In it, Nabilah, who has two children with Hasan — who runs an Arabic clothing business and works in a mosque in Brixton, South London — explains that she was introduced to his first wife, City worker Sakinah, 33, before they married. ‘We had tea and all that, so she was OK with the marriage. After the wedding, our relationship started developing slowly,’ says Nabilah.Then several years later, Hasan took a third wife, Somali-born driving instructor Anub, 41, whom he honeymooned with alone. His other wives were not invited to the wedding, though they gave it their blessing.For much of the time the wives live largely separate lives in separate houses across London, though they occasionally meet for organised family outings with their assorted children.‘If any problem happens between co‑wives it’s usually his fault,’ says Nabilah, who now works from home running a website selling Arabic perfumes and clothing. ‘Like if he’s praising somebody too much — “Why don’t you be more like her? She’s this, she’s that.”‘If he didn’t say that, we would all be happy.’Hasan spends three nights with each wife before moving on to the next, as he interprets treating each wife equally — a stipulation of polygamy in Islam — as meaning spending equal amounts of time with each.One of the conditions of polygamy is that you have to be fair and just with your wives,’ says Hasan. ‘If I buy her two roses, I don’t have to buy her two roses as well; it means in terms of time.’Having so many wives, he admits, can be as precarious ‘as balancing three spinning plates’, especially when they are all together.‘You have to be really careful you don’t over-show your emotion to one of them. So you can’t really relax and cuddle one of your wives.’ Polygamous marriages are a hardline interpretation of Islam not practised by all Muslims (it is estimated around 3 per cent of Muslim men worldwide take more than one wife). Yet Hasan is a convert, having switched to Islam from Christianity at the age of 16. Hasan spends three nights with each wife before moving on to the next, as he interprets treating each wife equally — a stipulation of polygamy in Islam — as meaning spending equal amounts of time with each He now insists on his wives covering their faces with the traditional veil. ‘My wives are something to be covered and protected for me,’ he says. ‘Some people put sheets over their cars, they cover their valuables and keep them away from people seeing and desiring the things that they have.’But it is not just religion which is apparently driving the practice. Matchmaker Mizan says women seeking a polygamous marriage usually contact him because they want security and are prepared to share a husband to achieve that. The men’s motives are — surprise, surprise — usually down to ‘high libidos’.‘For most men who want to do polygamy, probably 80 per cent, it’s a sexually-driven thing,’ he says. ‘The number one request is for a woman with a good body, in good proportion.’Another co-wife on the show is pretty 44-year-old Briton Shaheen Qureshi, who looks, on the surface at least, like any other married British mother. She wears glamorous clothes, costume jewellery and heavy eye make-up, and spends her time caring for her eight children and keeping up her modest home in Bradford, West Yorkshire.Yet while she dotes on her husband (they attended the same primary school and got married ten years ago), he also has another wife.His bigamy is something Shaheen has willingly embraced. ‘I know it’s not for everybody,’ she says, speaking to the Mail at her semi-detached Bradford home this week. ‘But men are naturally polygamous, so they will probably be having a fling just to survive their marriages.‘Women are a lot more loyal, but men have more of a roving eye, so if they’re allowed to have three or four wives, they will.‘I’m not a jealous person, I am confident in myself. I can be a good wife. I know what it’s like to be on my own, so I don’t mind if I don’t see my husband every day.’Her wedding was performed through a nikah — an Islamic ceremony conducted in the presence of two Muslim witnesses. While these are unregistered and unregulated by UK authorities, the ‘marriage’ is considered a binding legal contract by Muslims. But her protestations to the Mail this week that she is happy in her polygamous marriage contrast sharply with what she shows on the programme.On the show, there is one heartbreaking moment when she breaks down in tears when talking about the sense of loneliness and abandonment she often feels when home alone with her eight children, before exclaiming she feels she has no choice but to ask for a divorce.She continues that she is tired of living as a ‘single mum’. Hardly surprising when she has so many children.Six of her offspring were born during her first marriage, which took place when she was just 16. She was sent to Pakistan by her strict Muslim parents to marry her first cousin in an arranged marriage. It lasted 18 years but was largely unhappy, she says. Shaheen divorced her first husband ten years ago and married her current polygamous spouse — an ‘old friend’ — very soon afterwards.She was reluctant to name her second husband when we spoke to her this week, suffice to say he is a ‘respected’ businessman.Naively, Shaheen says she thought this marriage would be a chance to find ‘true love’ and that she and the first wife would be friends. She even imagined jovially bickering about whose turn it was to do the washing-up and ‘hanging out like Carrie and her friends in Sex And The City.’ The reality, however, was markedly different, for her new husband’s first wife became furiously jealous.In the ten years since her marriage, the two women have barely spoken. Relations deteriorated further when Shaheen bore two children to her husband — daughters now aged eight and two — and the situation recently reached a stand-off.‘She has now given him an ultimatum: it’s either me or her,’ says Shaheen.Not that Shaheen sees much of her husband anyway. She estimates that the two have spent no more than six months together throughout their decade of marriage.And it is not only family relations which are tough. Shaheen also struggles financially, as she does not work and it is unclear what financial support, if any, she receives from her husband or the State. Many such women, who say they don’t receive enough support from their so-called husbands, happily choose to claim benefits instead. Is this legal? Apparently yes.Even if a polygamous husband has countless wives and an abundance of children, the women are treated just like any other single mother. In other words, they are entitled to Child Support, housing benefit, council tax benefit and any other benefits her individual situation might entitle her to.Under British housing rules, the husband cannot possibly be registered in all the households, so he most probably can claim separate benefits, too.If the women become unhappy and wish to divorce, they have no rights under UK law so would be entitled to no financial settlement.But Shaheen, unbelievably, has nothing but sympathy for her husband who is, she says, under intolerable pressure from wife number one.‘Basically, he is a broken man. People will think he is having his cake and eating it. That isn’t the case. He is caught between a rock and a hard place. She knows he loves me. It’s really hard.’When multiple marriages do break down, any divorce and mediation must go through a Sharia court — an estimated 85 such now operate in Britain — which often penalise women.‘I know of Muslim women being subjected to savage domestic violence, and then refused a divorce, while their husbands are free to enter into further marriages to women from overseas,’ says Baroness Cox, a cross-bench peer and campaigner for Muslim women.‘Sharia treats women as second-class citizens, whether in inheritance rights or divorce. A woman’s word counts for only half the value of that of a man.’Shaheen has decided to give her husband another chance — but says that if they do divorce, she would happily enter another polygamous marriage, though next time she ‘will make sure the other women are happy for me to come on board’.If that seems a somewhat incredible prospect, it is made all the more so for the fact that it will be facilitated and tolerated in Britain.Additional reporting: Kate RawlingsSource:
  15. Two siblings are on a quest to revive the entrepreneurial streak once associated with Somali communities abroad. Asli and Yassin Ciyow want to dispel the image that young diaspora Somalis are often unemployed, involved in gangs, or linked to Islamist militants.The duo, born to a Somali father and a French mother, are bringing together 32 aspiring young British-Somali entrepreneurs to share ideas at a convention in London on Sunday.The gathering will build on the "enterprising nature" of Somalis and "showcase a new wave of young Somalis getting the start-up bug", says Asli Ciyow, 27. She began planning the Fiiri Bandhiga convention almost a year ago and came up with the idea while she was organising a separate charity event to build water wells in Somalia."I noticed there were a number of keen young Somalis from the UK and across Europe who were offering their services and skills."It was at that moment I suggested to my brother, 'Why don't we actually put a select group of young people, from across the diaspora, and who are already running their businesses, in touch with each other?'"Her younger brother was happy to help and they now aim to organise the convention once a year.It is not just about networking and "exchanging skills", Ms Ciyow says."It's also about demonstrating to young Somalis the possibilities open to them in the world of start-ups and getting the younger ones to start thinking early about their future."They intend to reach "many second-generation Somalis" growing up in various Western countries by rotating the convention between cities in the UK, Europe and the US.'Fortune men'The UK was a natural choice for the pairs' inaugural event as it is home to the oldest and largest Somali community in Europe, numbering more than 100,000.Somalis first came to the UK in the early 1900s, recruited as seamen and often known as "fortune men" in Somalia because of their ingenious ways of making a living.Their successors were quick to set up businesses to meet the needs of the growing refugee populations fleeing the civil conflict that began in 1991. Shukri Hashi studied fashion design before setting up her bridal wear businessSo can young British Somalis pick up the entrepreneurial spirit historically associated with their culture?London-based Shukri Hashi, one of the 32 chosen entrepreneurs, thinks so and says her background has been "inspirational" to her becoming a designer of Somali-tinged bespoke wedding dresses.Her entry into the fashion industry is a far cry from businesses traditionally the economic backbone of Somali diaspora societies - like the internet and telecommunications, the restaurant business and money transfer services. "I had a hard time explaining it my family. They were perplexed as to why I didn't stick to traditional graduate professions," says Ms Hashi, who graduated in fashion design five years ago."But they are slowly coming round to the idea that you can make a good living out of any profession if you put time and dedication into it."She says she is looking forward to networking and working with other young people from the British-Somali community - something that has not always been a given because of Somalia's clan system.Laura Hammond, an expert on the Somali diaspora at the School of Oriental & African Studies (Soas), says this shows how far second-generation Somalis have come."Their parents directed their investments and remittances to close relatives but young Somalis today are more likely than ever to cross those clan lines when it comes to doing business."They are less concerned with clan identities, relying on their British and Somali identities for the best of both worlds."'Reversing trends'So are young Somalis in the UK "turning a corner"?Awoowe Hamza, a 25-year-old community organiser in London, believes so.He often discusses challenges faced by young Somalis in the diaspora on his own which airs on a UK-based Somali channel. He also believes second-generation Somalis are "reversing" trends when it comes to low education attainment and unemployment. Talk show host Awoowe Hamza believes young British Somalis are overcoming barriers despite setbacks"Collecting data on Somalis is always challenging but, from my observations, an increasingly high number of young Somalis graduate as distinguished alumni from Russell Group [of leading] universities and many are becoming role models in their respective fields including setting up their own businesses," he says.The UK Somali community recently faced a setback when news emerged of British Somali teenage twin sisters reportedly joining Islamic State (IS) in Syria. But Mr Hamza says he prefers to look at the bigger picture."Young Somalis on the whole are well integrated into British society achieving a good balance between their British, Somali and Muslim identities."The majority of them are focussed on trying to both develop themselves professionally, as well as supporting their parents and other members of their family who are struggling."Having visible role models like Olympic gold-winning athlete Mo Farah, acclaimed novelist Nadifa Mohamed and London's young poet laureate Warsan Shire has helped in the process of integration and "settling" the question of identity for young people, says Ms Hammond.For their part, the Ciyow siblings say they hope that their business convention helps create the "next generation" of role models in the world of business."We have spent months picking our entrepreneurs as we wanted only to showcase the best," says Ms Ciyow."The feedback has been positive so far and we can't wait for our next stop next year in Minneapolis, the US."Source:
  16. EL PASO — In a seafood restaurant where most of the wait staff and clientele preferred Spanish to English, Dekha Hassan-Mohamed mustered some dry wit that reflected how she was slowly adapting to her surroundings on the Texas-Mexico border. “I am becoming Mexican, no more Somalia,” she said, prompting a chuckle from her lawyer, Linda Corchado. Ms. Hassan-Mohamed’s grasp of basic Spanish and border culture is a result of a harrowing journey that began in her native Somalia. It ended when an immigration judge granted her asylum in El Paso last month, bucking a national trend in which a majority of applicants do not receive asylum. Ms. Hassan-Mohamed, 27, fled Mogadishu to Ethiopia, went to Brazil and then trekked through South and Central America — sometimes walking for more than 15 hours — before landing in an El Paso immigration detention center after crossing the border through Ciudad Juárez. In 2010, a member of Al Shabaab — a radical group that the United Statesdesignated as an official terrorist organization in 2008 — demanded that Ms. Hassan-Mohamed become one of his wives. “They wanted to get more wives to get more children to raise an army,” she said. But once Ms. Hassan-Mohamed spurned him, she and Ms. Corchado said, the man was intent on revenge. “The police told me they can’t do anything about Al Shabaab.” Ms. Hassan-Mohamed said. “He attacked me, he killed my brother, he broke my mother’s arm.” Against her mother’s wishes, Ms. Hassan-Mohamed fled her home in September 2010 and crossed the border into neighboring Ethiopia. She lived there until November 2013, though she said her life did not improve. She was sexually assaulted. When she was employed, she was often shortchanged or not paid at all. Because of her undocumented status, she did not go to the authorities. She used a fake passport to flee to Brazil. Days later, smugglers began taking her through the rest of the Americas, and she arrived in El Paso in February. Before seeking asylum in the United States, Ms. Hassan-Mohamed sought protection from the Panamanian and Mexican governments. Both times she was detained and given deportation orders. Ms. Corchado’s ability to secure legal status for her client in the United States beat the odds. In 2011, 189 of the 240 asylum requests from Somali natives were approved, about 79 percent. That fell to 43 percent, or 86 of the 202 requests, in 2013. The overall rate of approved asylum claims in the United States is about 25 percent. Ms. Hassan-Mohamed’s case was based on several factors, Ms. Corchado said. Fleeing violence is not usually regarded as reason enough to be granted asylum. Applicants from Honduras, considered the world’s most violent country, fare far worse than Somalis. In 2013, about 4 percent of claims from Honduras — 92 out of 2,354 — were approved. (Applicants from Mexico were approved in 1.8 percent of cases in 2013.) To qualify for asylum, applicants must have suffered persecution at the hands of a group that the government cannot or is not willing to control. Applicants must also show they are being targeted because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a political group or political opinion. Dana Leigh Marks, a San Francisco-based immigration judge and the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said asylum cases cannot be looked at in a vacuum, even though some have similar dynamics. “It’s difficult to look at any given case from the outside and be able to predict what the outcome will be because the law is so complicated and there are so many different pieces that have to be met,” she said. “And judges, we’re human beings. We do look at these things with a margin of variation that’s not mathematical.” Ms. Corchado said her client’s case hinged, in part, on Ms. Hasan-Mohamed’s opposition to what the terrorist group represented. “Her refusal to marry a terrorist wasn’t just ‘I don’t love you.’ It was because she had profound beliefs against the Al Shabaab,” Ms. Corchado said. “And she would carry that anywhere she went in Somalia.” A decision rendered almost 20 years ago could have also played a large role in Ms. Hassan-Mohamed’s case. In June 1996, the federal governmentrecognized that female genital mutilation was a form of official persecution. The World Health Organization stated in February that the cultural ritual has no medical benefits for females and estimated that at least 125 million women had been affected by the practice in 29 countries. “It would allow her to be eligible for humanitarian asylum as well,” Ms. Corchado said. Another client of Ms. Corchado’s hopes to be afforded the same protection. The woman, who asked not to be identified because she fears for her safety, fled Nigeria in June 2013 to get away from Boko Haram, another groupdesignated a terrorist organization by the United States. The woman, a Baptist preacher, said she feared for her life when the Islamist group began killing Christians in her village. She went to Philadelphia on what she thought was a two-year tourist visa. She began a journey in April to meet a friend in California but found out in El Paso that her visa was only valid for six months. She was taken into custody by the United States Border Patrol and was placed in detention in April, when she began her bid for asylum. The woman was eventually released last month and is in the initial stages of her asylum claim. Ms. Corchado, whose Nigerian client has a hearing next month, is hoping for enough time to gather evidence that proves her client has a right to stay. She added that her client’s release from detention was a significant step toward that goal. “She can reach out to folks from Nigeria, witnesses that were actually there when the attack happened, to help present the case in the best way possible,” she said. Ms. Corchado can also seek prosecutorial discretion, which would close the case on the condition that a judge may reopen it. “She was a minister in Nigeria, she’s very devout, she’s very committed here in El Paso,” Ms. Corchado said. “She’s of good moral character and has no criminal record. She’s also sustained a lot of trauma.” As she waits, Ms. Corchado’s Nigerian client has not lost faith and says her time here is part of her journey. “It is written that these things will be, there will always be persecution,” she said. Ms. Hassan-Mohamed, meanwhile, is settling in with El Paso’s small but growing Muslim community. She has established a friendship with Dr. Yara Tovar, a Mexican doctor who converted to Islam and now lives in El Paso. Dr. Tovar visited Ms. Hassan-Mohamed when she was detained after Ms. Corchado reached out to the Islamic Center of El Paso. “I think she can do a lot of things here,” Dr. Tovar said. “She has a community that can support her. I think she will do O.K.” Source: Texas Tribune
  17. Leicester’s Somali community has fitted into city life thanks to things such as in schooling, a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a strong community.A report comparing seven cities has shown that Somali people have integrated better in Leicester than many other places.The Somalis in Leicester report, drawn up by the Open Society Foundations, was launched this afternoon at Leicester Town Hall.It provides a detailed analysis of the city’s 15,000-strong Somali community – one of the largest in the UK.It looks into daily experiences of Somalis in Leicester, as well as six other European cities - Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, London, Malmo and Oslo.Jawaahir Daahir, 51, of Evington, who worked as a researcher on the project, and is also the director of Somali Development Services, moved to Leicester 14 years ago.She left Somalia in 1990 because of the civil war and moved to Holland, before heading to Leicester a decade later.She said: “I moved in 2000 to Leicester because of the multicultural aspect and freedom of religion here.“The first thing that struck me was the diversity and how people respect each other.”She added that she felt like she was at home here, and there was a strong sense of inclusion – confirmed by the research in the report.She said: “Everyone we spoke to loves the city and the multicultural aspect. We have interaction and a good relationship with our neighbours.”Abdish Tarah, 45, of St Matthew’s, has lived in Leicester for 12 years, and said it had always been a positive experience for him.He said: “I am delighted to live in Leicester because of the level of acceptance and diversity in terms of education.“I moved here because I was visiting my family and I really liked the atmosphere – it was very diverse. There are also opportunities to make contributions to our society.”Nazia Hussain, director of Open Society Foundations’ At Home in Europe project, said a lot could be learned from Leicester.She said: “What is interesting about Leicester is a lot of Somalis have moved from other EU cities.“It is a positive story in Leicester, not without its challenges, but they are ones Leicester can overcome.“The women have been the forefront in moving forward with the integration process.”She said the report showed Somalis learned from the experience of other minority groups who previously settled in the city from places such as south Asia and the West Indies.Councillor Manjula Sood, Leicester's assistant city mayor for community involvement, partnerships and equalities, said: "I am very pleased to be supporting the launch of this research here in Leicester.“The council and its partners work hard to try to ensure the successful integration of all new communities in our city, and we welcome new information that will help us to do this.“These findings will help us to learn more about the local Somali community, and we will consider them carefully in our future decision and policy making.”The report also found that despite the community’s strong sense of belonging and high marks on improved education attainment, there were still a some of problems, for example in health and housing.It found that Somalis lived in some of the most disadvantaged wards, feel discriminated when seeking health care and feel exploited by landlords.The report made a few recommendations about ways to move forward.These include a more effective consultation with Somali communities in service delivery and employment, as well as exploring the establishment of a small loans and grants system to facilitate enterprises in the city to aid economic development.Another recommendation was to raise awareness among tenants about their rights and the regulations that govern private tenancy.Source:
  18. Yuki Abdulle smiles as she receives her certificate of participation from St. Paul, Minn. Police Chief Thomas Smith, right, and Assistant Chief Todd Axtell, left, during a graduation ceremony for the East African Junior Police Academy in St. Paul. Photo: AP Photo/The St. Paul Pioneer Press, Sherri LaRose-Chiglo) Many police departments across the country have come under fire for their lack of diversity since the Aug. 9shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black 18-year-old. Brown was shot by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri, where two-thirds of the community is Black, but only three of the town’s 53 officers are African-American."I think the community feels better about their police department if the police department maybe reflects the makeup of the community — but that's easier said than done,” Bill Carson, the newly-elected police chief of St. Louis suburb Maryland Heights, told the Associated Press.Yet despite extensive efforts to recruit more minorities — his department of 79 officers only has one Black and one Latino officer — Carson only received four applications from Black and Latino recruits during his first hiring process as chief. "It's not like we're passing over a lot of great minority applicants so that we can hire more white police officers,” he said.Experts have confirmed that solutions for a more diverse police rank are not as simple as advertising in Black publications or at job fairs for historically Black colleges, as Carson did.According to the AP, authorities say other reasons include "many departments limiting their searches too close to home, not recruiting in the right places and setting criteria that can disproportionately exclude groups they hope to attract.” An historically cultural distrust and fear of the police was another significant factor pointed to by experts."If you were taught from the time that you could speak, from the time that you could understand speech, that police are to be feared and that they're part of an occupying force that is there to circumvent the democratic processes and to strip you of your rights, then it's very difficult for that department to come into your neighborhood and tell you that they respect you and that you should join their team," Phillip Atiba Goff, co-founder and president of the Center for Policing Equity at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the AP.Several departments have gone to great lengths to recruit more minorities, including reaching out as far as Puerto Rico and offering pay increases to officers fluent in Spanish, Laotian or Vietnamese. In Minneapolis, where there are large Somali and Burmese communities, the police department has recruited a number of East African cops and liaisons to help combat “the stigma” attached to local law enforcement. St. Paul-area officers have even held children’s events, like the department’s inaugural East African Police Academy."It's a thing to let the kids know that we're OK," Sgt. Paul Paulos told AP. "I think it's very important to start at a young age ... It's a long-term recruitment. It's nothing done overnight.”Source: BET
  19. It was one of the most refreshing and reassuring weddings I attended for a long time, almost over a quarter of a century. Refreshing because since the grip of extremist trends of Ideologies that shun everything that appears, tastes and sounds genuine and indigenous in local cultures and replaces it with its narrow and sterile interpretation that deprives all kinds of enjoyment, music and beauty from life, it was the first time I saw an inclusive wedding where all community members regardless of sex and age celebrated together the delight and festivities of a real Somali wedding.It was refreshing because it was a joy to see family couples, sometimes with their children, coming to the wedding hall and taking their seats together. No walls divided between women and men, no barricades, no segregation; all well groomed and decently but elegantly dressed for the occasion with traditional Somali Diric and hagoog dominating the scene while the youth dressed trendy clothes to their taste in all fashion styles. Even elderly women who came were dressed in reminiscently Somali style without alien black shrouds. It was refreshing because the bride and bride-groom made a grand entrance with young men and women as best men and women walking in front of them hand-in-hand. The whole audience fell silent to watch the beauty of youth strolling, a beauty that they knew the Somali people had, a beauty they knew was never meant to be depressed, stunted and denied to breathe and enjoy its prime. “This is the best wedding, I have seen for a long time,” said a friend sitting next to me. I also overheard similar remarks from other people both men and women, with a tone that underlined the nostalgia the Somali people have for their superior culture that they had lost due to the imposition of extremist ideologies on them; Ideologies that see sin mushrooming everywhere where even a teenage son has to police the behavior of his mother let alone his sisters lest they go astray as if the whole Somali community is devoid of moral values and had to be forced on it.It was refreshing because the party opened with short speeches and poems by old generation men who gave tributes to the married couple and their courage and that of their parents to revive the genuine communal festivities of our culture. It was refreshing because the youth, men and women, danced together to all kinds of music, Somali, Arabic, Hindi and western to make the night memorable for the wedding couple. And the elderly joined the dance sometimes, gracing the occasion and embracing it as a truly community event.It was refreshing because the youth, both men and women, also joined their parents in performing traditional Somali folklore dances. Refreshing because it was a happy, inclusive, celebratory community event, a true picture of what a wedding should be, and not the austere, segregated and gloomy occasions that Somali weddings have become lately.The wedding was also reassuring because it proved that the Somali people have started to rebel against the recent trend of segregating women and men in social occasions and denying a common memory to the marred couple about their best day and the community at large.A wedding is a celebration of life, a celebration of a journey to begin for a young couple who would have their own children to preserve human existence, one of the noblest missions of a person’s life on earth; an occasion that demands a communal festivity in which all members of the society attend and contribute. And to Somalis, weddings were traditionally one of the most important community festivals where new poems were born, new dances improvised, new jokes and riddles weaved, collective memory invoked, romantic melodies enjoyed, decent courting incubated and new loves stories started.But since the encroachment of the extremist Salafist, and Wahhabist sects on the Somali culture, most of the weddings and particularly those in western capitals have become not places of joy and communal sharing but places of cultural doom, guilt, censorship and draconian rules of moral policing that ban music, singing, and interacting and sharing between genders, thus depriving the youth of experiencing the true culture and identity of their people. Oddly enough also it is the Somali weddings that take place in American and European cities that wholeheartedly accepted such alien cultural austerity and it has to be a place like Abu Dhabi, in the heart of the Arab world, that Somali people find the mental freedom to invoke the true synergy of their culture and Islam in the way they knew it over the centuries. An Islam that seamlessly blends with their culture, an Islam that accepts and not shuns domestic culture, Islam that embraces life and the beauty of living, Islam that enriches people’s lives with arts, music , dance, and good artistic taste and passion for freedom of cultural imagination, Islam that binds together with love and brotherhood, and does not incriminate them for sharing a public space together to celebrate the wedding of their culture, Islam that enriches our culture and not stifles it, Islam that is a higher calling from a fair God that entails beauty, mercy, perfection, and freedom; and not a lowly edict from a tyrant demigod. For the Prophet told us that: “God is beautiful and loves beauty.” And no wonder with this in mind Somali women used to welcome the bride to her home while singing: “Hoy Nebow , Nuur Allow, Maxamad Nebi Magac Samow.” (Oh Prophet, Oh light from Allah, Oh Muhammad, what a prophet of good name you are.)I have to conclude this piece by congratulating and saluting the wedding of Ayaan Omar Ahmed Barre hailing from Borama and Zakariya Abdulla Fadal Gabaxady hailing from Oodweyne held in Abu Dhabi on 11th September 2014, as well as their parents for their courage to reject the dictates of the cultural brainwashing and to revive the beauty of inclusive Somali communal festivities. Bashir Goth is a Somali poet, journalist, professional translator, freelance writer and the first Somali blogger. Bashir is the author of numerous cultural, religious and political articles and advocate of community-development projects, particularly in the fields of education and culture. He is also a social activist and staunch supporter of women’s rights. He is currently working as an editor in a reputable corporation in the UAE
  20. LEWISTON, Maine — Sahro Hassan is a devout Muslim who prays five times a day. She is a fashion designer and budding entrepreneur who loves “America’s Next Top Model” and “Project Runway.” She is a change agent for her people and, in some ways, for her adopted hometown. She is all of 18. A self-proclaimed “Islamanista,” or Muslim fashionista, Hassan has set out to encourage other Muslim women to feel confident enough to express themselves through fashion. Why, she wonders, can’t a young woman be modest and stylish at the same time? “I’m not doing fashion because I want to go away from my culture,” said Hassan, who is dressed headscarf-to-toe in leopard prints. “I’m doing fashion because I want to keep my culture and make sure the next generation of kids understand their culture.” Hassan has had to bridge several worlds in her young life. Her Somali parents fled to Kenya in the early 1990s to escape the horrors of civil war, and she grew up in refugee camps. Her family moved to the United States when she was 10, which was difficult for Hassan, who didn’t know what the United States was when she left Africa. She spoke only one word of English (“hello”) and was illiterate in her native language. Photos: Sahro Hassan’s designs Eight years later, Hassan has graduated from high school with honors. She has a business called Fashionuji and designs bold, edgy clothes for Muslim women that are “on trend,” she said, but modest enough to meet Muslim religious standards. She took first prize in Maine’s Future Business Leaders of America competition and the “Girls Rock Award” for entrepreneurship from Hardy Girls, Healthy Women, a Maine nonprofit. She just started a four-year fashion design program at Newton’s Mount Ida College. By all accounts, she’s had an impact on this challenged city of 36,500. Perhaps inadvertently, she’s helped make the case for tolerance in a city that has made national headlines for intolerance. “She’s been able to balance, standing on one foot in one culture and one in another, very eloquently,” said Julia Sleeper of Tree Street Youth, which serves at-risk youth here and is where Hassan learned to sew. From Somalia to Maine Lewiston was a mill town for more than a century, starting around the 1850s. Powered by the Androscoggin River and a surge of French Canadian immigrants, Lewiston was one of the largest textile producers in New England, rolling out millions of yards of cotton fabric every year. In time, though, the industry struggled to compete with Southern states where production costs were lower. Lewiston slid into decline. “By the 1980s, the mills were all but gone,” said Phil Nadeau, Lewiston’s deputy city administrator. The next two decades were sad years. Houses were vacated. Store fronts emptied. Mills shut down. Today, the city is being revitalized. The Bates Mill complex houses a TD Bank call center, loft apartments, a museum, and restaurants. There’s a park for concerts, art walks, and plans for an amphitheater. But things took an unexpected turn in February 2001, when a few Somali families moved to Lewiston and liked what they saw — cheap housing, good schools, and safer streets than cities like Atlanta, Chicago, and Memphis, where many Somalis had been assigned by refugee agencies. Over the next few years, thousands of Somalis came to Lewiston. Currently, there are some 5,000 immigrants living here, about 85 percent of them Somali, according to City Hall data. Lewiston, the state’s second-largest city, was transformed. “The first halal store opened around the time a mosque opened,” said Nadeau, referring to shops that sell goat meat, tamarind juice, and other groceries permissible to consume under Islamic law. “I can’t even guess how many there are now. At least a dozen.” The norm now is to see women with head scarves and long flowing dresses striding down the streets, children in tow. The scent of tamarind and cumin hangs in the air outside African restaurants. Prayer rugs are tucked into corners of shops. A different kind of struggle Not everyone in town has been happy about the Somali wave. Some residents grumbled about the immigrants using welfare benefits. Locals called City Hall asking who “authorized” the influx, according to Nadeau. In 2002, then Mayor Laurier Raymond wrote an open letter urging the Somalis to stop inviting other immigrants to Lewiston. There have been other incidents over the years. In 2006, a white man rolled the head of a pig, considered impure by Muslims, into a mosque. Two years ago, Lewiston’s current mayor, Robert E. Macdonald, told the BBC that immigrants should “accept our culture and leave your culture at the door.” By the time they got to Lewiston, Sahro Hassan’s family had already had a taste of feeling unwelcome. They’d spent six unhappy months in Indianapolis. “My school was not used to diverse people,” said Hassan, the oldest of eight children, ages 2 to 18. Once, she was summoned to the principal’s office and ordered to remove her hijab. “Our culture was literally being stripped away from us,” she said. But Lewiston was different. There were lots of people from other countries, and lots of Somali Muslims. If she said “Salaam alaikum,” or “Peace be upon you,” to a stranger on the street, she’d usually be greeted right back. When Hassan started school, there was a translator to help her; within a year she was proficient in English. Her father learned some English and got a job at Walmart, where he works six days a week, stocking shelves. He learned to drive a car. But it was an overwhelming adjustment. In Somalia, she said, her parents were “just villagers” who fled their homeland because terrorists were slaughtering families, kidnapping girls. They headed toward the Kenyan border. Many people died on the way, but nobody buried them. “Everybody just kept moving,” her mother, Habibo Sambul, said, as Hassan translated. They made it to a refugee camp, but that was little better. They stayed there until humanitarian organizations resettled them in the United States where they would struggle in a different way. “Oh my God, when I saw America, I was like, ‘What’s this?’ ’’ Hassan said. “If you want water, you don’t line up?” She was amazed when teachers talked to her about going to college. In her own culture, women had children and stayed home. Yet she quickly soaked up American ways. Above all, she was intrigued by the way American women dressed — the vast range of colors and patterns, the fabrics. Muslim clothing emphasizes modesty first and foremost, she said: head covered, clothes loose. “My mother taught me if it isn’t comfortable, it isn’t modest . . . . No man will respect you if you wear tight clothes. She said, ‘Don’t dress for other people but for your religion and culture.’ ” This was not so easy in America where dresses “had too much cleavage and were too tight,” she said. She covered up with cardigans. Still, she wondered, did Muslim clothing have to be so uninspired? To make her point, she walks through the clothing section of a halal store. “Every single kid in town is wearing the exact same thing, except the color might be different,” said Hassan. “Everything is matchy-matchy.” She began dressing so colorfully “you could see her from far away,” said her friend Shamsi Aden. “You’d say, ‘That’s Sahro!” An idea dawns Hassan first considered being a designer in middle school. She learned to sew at Tree Street Youth, and joined the Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy. She wrote a business plan for a line of stylish clothes for Muslim women and called it Fashionuji, because Uji, her nickname, means oatmeal, “or as I like to define it, soft, naive, and beautiful,” Hassan said. She pitched the idea to local investors, who awarded her $1,100 to help launch her business; displayed her samples at a trade show; shopped them around to local stores; and organized two fashion shows. Hassan also studied videos of fashion shows, then trained her girlfriends to be models: how to strut down a runway and pause for effect, how to stay composed and keep walking, even if there’s a glitch in the music. She built a website,, with her design samples, and rap-inspired poetry: Some call us terrorist Some think Muslim women are oppressed To them the hijab is a trashy paper bag They don’t gotta clue how we swag . . . She learned the lingo of the fashion and business industries. The girl who eight years ago could not speak English now sprinkles her conversations with casual references to “show-stoppers” and “cost control.” “I’ve been trying to get my cuts really clean,” she said of her latest collection. “I think I’ve nailed it this time.” A future business leader Sahro Hassan is barely 5 feet tall, has a round face and an impressive ability to multitask. At the moment, she’s in the kitchen of her family’s sparsely furnished four-bedroom apartment cooking Somali chapati, or flatbread, for two girlfriends who are hanging out in her bedroom. She is also translating for her mother, and talking on her cellphone which is tucked into her hijab. The call is from her mentor and former middle school teacher Barbara McManus, who reminds Hassan to be at the airport at 5 a.m. for a flight to Tennessee. She’s representing Maine in the national competition of Future Business Leaders of America. Hassan seems startled. She almost forgot. “I’ll bring my resume and my business plan,” she tells McManus, recovering quickly. The day isn’t shaping up well. She had spent the morning at her job at Lots to Gardens, a community garden program. (Some of her job earnings go to her parents to help with expenses.) Now, she’s running late for 1:30 prayer at the mosque. She hasn’t packed for her trip, and Ramadan starts that night, which means she’ll have to get up at 3:45 a.m. to eat a family meal before she starts her daily fast and rushes to the airport. That evening is also her fashion show. She’s been working on the designs for weeks in what passes for her workroom: a corner of the living room, where the walls are covered with African fabric and a sofa imported from Mogadishu. Her sewing machine is a gift from an anonymous donor who left it for her at the youth center. “I want you to have this sewing machine to help get your business started,” the note said. “I know you will be a success.” The fashion show took place in a concrete plaza downtown with two sloping ramps sometimes used by skateboarders. Hassan, wearing red tights under a white dress and glittery accessories, nervously adjusted the models’ outfits inside a tent. One wore a flowing gold lame skirt over a red polka dot shirt, which complemented her hijab. Another paired a crimson dress with green shoes. As the emcee described the outfits, a crowd gathered and grew. By the end, the plaza was packed with adults and children, most of them white, who were clearly delighted and stood to applaud. Afterward, Hassan glowed. She was proud of her “girls” for looking so strong and proud. But the best part was when a little girl approached her. “She said, ‘I’m a big fan of yours.’ To hear that from a little child? That is the most heartfelt piece for me,” Hassan said. “It says I’m inspiring not only Muslims but a little girl who is white to follow their dreams.” Source:
  21. AFRICAN Union peacekeepers in Somalia rape women seeking medicine and food on their bases and routinely pay displaced teenage girls for sex, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday. Below are some of the women’s stories, taken from the report ‘The Power These Men Have Over Us’: Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by African Union Forces in Somalia. Ayanna, internally displaced mother, Mogadishu Ayanna went to the Burundian base to get medicine for her sick baby. A Somali interpreter working there told her to come back without the child. When she returned, he called her and three other young women over to a fenced area where six soldiers were waiting. The soldiers threatened them at gunpoint, dragged them into a bunker, beat and raped them. One woman was badly hurt. “We carried the injured woman home. Three of us walked out of the base carrying her… She couldn’t stand,” she said. “They gave us porridge, cookies and five dollars but they didn’t say anything to us. They threw the items at us and a bag to put them in.” Qamar, aged 15, Mogadishu Qamar went to the Burundian base to get medicine for her sick mother. An interpreter told her to follow two soldiers who would give her the medicine. She followed them to a bunker behind a fence where one man raped her as the second walked around. “First he ripped off my hijab and then he attacked me,” she told HRW. As she was leaving, the second soldier waved her over and gave her $10. Aziza, aged 17, internally displaced, Mogadishu Aziza’s neighbour, an interpreter, asked her to “befriend” a Ugandan soldier who would help her if she treated him like “her husband”. When they went to the Ugandan base, she saw four other girls waiting. “Each girl was led to a different tent by the interpreter,” she said. “The interpreter introduced me to a much older Ugandan soldier. I told the interpreter I was having second thoughts and wanted to leave.” The interpreter refused and left the crying girl with the soldier. “When I resisted the soldier’s advances, he became angry and brought back the interpreter who threatened me in Somali,” she said. The soldier raped her and then gave her $10 and a bag of apples. “It was either do as he wants or die,” she said. Kassa, aged 19, Mogadishu Kassa started having sex regularly with a soldier because she needed money for food. One day, he got angry because she did not want to perform fellatio as she had a sore tooth. “I tried to explain to him using hand gestures but he became infuriated and forced me to perform the act anyway,” she said. “I felt so scared and thought he would shoot me with his pistol.” Deka, Mogadishu “While in line (for medicine), an interpreter approached me and said he wanted to introduce me to a senior Burundian military officer who would be able to help me,” she said. “He gave me his number, told me to come back wearing a burqa. “He introduced me to a Burundian man of about 40 or 50, then left me alone in a room. “My baby was given toys to play with. The man undressed himself and we had sex; the baby cried twice and the soldier seemed annoyed by it. “When it was finished, I received my medication, $10 and some food. “On later visits I saw six other Somali women there - about six regulars between 15 and 24-years-old.” Girl, 12, Baidoa A girl was working on her parents’ farm on the edge of town when she was raped by a Ugandan soldier. “She wore a sako (long robe) and jeans under it,” her mother said. “After tearing the jeans, he raped her. He cut her vagina. He wounded her very badly. We don’t know if he made that cut with the knife or just with himself.” Somali soldiers nearby intervened and the girls’ parents were taken to meet AMISOM officials. They were offered 50 camels in compensation. AMISOM called the girl and her cousin, a witness, to identify the soldier, her mother said. She has heard that a case opened in Mogadishu but the family were not informed. “The rape... became the source of destruction of our family,” she said. “People laugh at (my daughter) whenever she comes out. They say: ‘An infidel raped her.’ “How can you feel if your daughter asks you: ‘Mother, do I deserve to live? Mother, I better die to hide my shameful face.’” Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation
  22. French intelligence services helped the US track down and kill the leader of Somalia’s al-Shebab Islamist armed group two week ago, sources close to President François Hollande said on Saturday. France provided intelligence and helped coordinate the air strike that killed al-Shebab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Abu Zubeyr, on 1 September, an anonymous source told the AFP news agency, confirming a report in Le Point magazine. France reportedly helped gather information but did not take part in the Hellfire and laser-guided missile strike on a meeting of al-Shebab leaders in south Mogadishu. French intelligence gave the Pentagon the precise identity of his vehicle and the route he was to follow “on the explicit orders of the president”, according to Le Point. Godane, 37, was one of the US's 10 most wanted terror suspects. Godane was behind the 2009 kidnapping of two French agents, one of whom, known under the pseudonum of Marc Aubrière, escaped. The other, Denis Allex, died during a French military strike aiming to rescue him early last year, as did two French soldiers and at least 17 al-Shebab fighters. Al-Shebab named Ahmed Umar Abou Oubaida as Godane’s successor and have sworn to avenge his death. Source: RFI
  23. Norway’s DNO ASA has been granted a 2-year extension on the term of its production-sharing agreement for the 12,000-sq-km onshore Block SL18, 120 km east of Hargeysa, in Somaliland. The company says the first exploration period will now end Nov. 8, 2017. The partners have completed field survey and environmental assessment studies over the block, and will initiate a planned seismic acquisition program once the Somaliland government has implemented a planned oil protection unit (OPU) to support the international oil companies operating in Somaliland, DNO says. The OPU is expected to be operational in 2015. DNO, meanwhile, says it will resume a development program focused on drilling water wells to provide local communities in the areas covered by Block SL18 with potable water, security conditions permitting. DNO operates Block SL18 with 50% interest. The company reached an initial PSA last year (OGJ Online, Apr. 23, 2013). Source:
  24. Drivers in the Somaliland region are complaining about rising fuel prices after two ships that were expected to come to the port town of Berbera in mid-August failed to arrive. Shaqale Yusuf, a 31-year-old taxi driver in Hargeisa, said fuel shortages and inflation of prices have exacerbated in the past two weeks leaving him at times unable to work. Since the shortage, he had to leave his vehicle by the roadside overnight, after driving to ten petrol stations unable to find fuel, and on occasion has stayed home from work because of inflated prices, he said. Prices vary but in general petrol stations have increased their prices from $1 a litre to $1.40 in the past two weeks, he said, adding that a number of taxi drivers he knows also stopped working because of the prices. To afford the fuel and keep working, Yusuf said he was forced to raise the rate he charged customers. “This resulted in many people [who use taxis] being unable to afford the payment and some of my customers have opted to stop using taxi services,” he said. Before the fuel shortages, he used to make between $40 to $60 daily, but now he gets only $20 on a good day, he said. Similarly, Abdinur Mohamed Osman, a minivan driver who works between Hargeisa, Berbera and Burao, said he has not had any passengers since the end of August. He said it no longer makes sense to work because “all the money I make would only cover my petrol costs”. For his part, government-owned Berbera Fuel Storage Tanks Director Saleban Said Ali acknowledged there is a petrol shortage, but said the government is not to blame. “The government does not import fuel, and our role is to provide storage services for the companies that import the fuel,” Ali told Sabahi. “[Their] supplies run out, therefore the shortage in fuel is coming from the fuel companies.” The issues stemming from the shortage of fuel came after two ships that were expected to come to Berbera in mid-August failed to arrive, Chairman of the Somaliland Chamber of Commerce Mohamed Shukri Jama said. To extend supply, the Ministry of Commerce, the managers of government-owned storage facilities and the import companies agreed to ration the available petrol and sell it in quotas of 20 barrels per petrol station at a time until more petrol arrives, he said. “Whenever there is talk of a shortage, every person wants to purchase [more than] what he or she needs. Therefore, [retail] petrol stations have been told to ration it and sell a maximum of ten litres to each vehicle,” he said. Rationing of petrol was expected to end last Friday (September 5th) with the arrival of a ship carrying fuel from the United Arab Emirates, but as of Wednesday (September 10th) morning, officials said the ship had not arrived in Somaliland. Problems with fuel importation, storage Yassin Alase, who teaches business administration at the University of Hargeisa, said the government should review how petrol is imported to ensure shortages no longer occur. “When the price of [petrol] goes up, the price to produce [goods and services] also increases, which causes inflation and a person’s salary to no longer be sufficient [for his livelihood],” he said. “That affects everyone in Somaliland.” Although privatisation has generally helped improve the economy and service delivery, he said, the regional government should have more control over industries such as the energy sector, and consider a private-public partnership to provide better oversight to companies importing fuel. Only six privately owned companies work in the business of importing fuel into Somaliland. “The government should own 20% of petrol import [companies],” Alase said, adding that the companies should also be better vetted to ensure they are financially able to carry out the work and meet market demands. In addition, he said, the government should increase the number of tanks used to store fuel because today’s market demand is much higher than what it was when the storage facilities were first created. Currently, due to the limited number of tanks used to store fuel, the companies bring the fuel in by alternating in accordance with a schedule laid out for them by the Ministry of Commerce, Chamber of Commerce Chairman Jama said. Worry over price fluctuations Meanwhile, drivers who spoke to Sabahi said they are worried that prices will not return to previous levels even if the companies import enough fuel and shortages subside. “In the last seven years, at least, we have gained experience in price fluctuations,” said Osman, the bus driver. “In Somaliland there is never a price reversal in the cost of goods once they have seen a price rise.” If the Somaliland government does not so something, the inflated prices will halt business activity and negatively affect the lives of civilians, Yusuf the taxi driver said. Ali, the director of the Berbera fuel storage facility, said the retail price of one barrel of petrol is $185, while diesel is $175. “That has not changed, and the increase [in fuel prices] is coming from the stations not due to an increase by the companies that import,” he said. The government monitors the price at which importing companies sell to retail stations, Ali said, but it was unable to control the prices at which those stations sell to consumers. Source:
  25. CALGARY -- A city man reportedly killed last month while taking part in the Iraq insurgency may still be alive, according to messages apparently posted by the man on social media. Although never confirmed by Foreign Affairs, reports of the death of Farah Mohamed Shirdon spread through various social media sites Aug. 15. No cause of death was given. A member of a prominent Somali-Canadian family in Calgary, Shirdon reportedly left Canada earlier this year to fight alongside insurgents in Iraq. On Thursday, a Twitter account purportedly belonging to Shirdon claimed that reports of his death were false, and that he was instead recovering from injuries sustained in battle. The Twitter account believed to be owned by Shirdon contains several pro-insurgent tweets, including a declaration that beheading Shia Muslims is a "beautiful thing," as well as several messages for his mother and family explaining that his love for the cause outweighed his love for them. The account's last tweet before Thursday's post was dated July 28, describing Eid al-Fitr celebrations "‹in Iraq. Shirdon appeared in a video released in April alongside fellow foreign-born jihadis tearing up and burning their passports. Two Calgarians have been killed in Iraq and Syria fighting for the radical insurgency group. Damian Clairmont, 22, was killed earlier this year in Syria, while Salman Ashrafi killed himself in apparent suicide attack near Baghdad in June. The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service claims that over 130 Canadians have joined Islamic State rebels in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Somalia. Source: