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  1. TThe Bahati Mamas, (left to right), Hajia Kangame, Sitey Mbere, Maganey Ramazani, Hawa Ahamed and Khadija Musame, are a group of five Somali Bantu refugees living in City Heights who started their own farming business in 2009.The Bahati Mamas are a group of five Somali Bantu women living in City Heights who started their own farming business. The women are Somali Bantu Refugees who were forced to leave their home in 2004 to seek refuge in the United States because of the civil war in Somalia.The Somali Bantu refugees had to leave everything they knew. As part of their resettlement, the International Recuse Committee (IRC) helped the refugee families find jobs, learn English and help their children get an education. The refugees faced many challenges while learning American customs; one of these challenges was finding good, quality, organic produce for the families in their community. This served as an impetus for people of the Somali Bantu community to begin efforts to farm like they did in their old home.The Somali Bantu community went to the IRC for help to find land where they could produce their own food. As a result, in 2007, refugees in City Heights received a small plot of land with the help of the IRC on University and Chollas Parkway called the New Roots Community Garden.One of the Bahati Mamas, City Heights resident Maganey Ramazani, is cleaning the brush and leaves from the spring season in preparation for the summer season at the Tierra Miguel farm in Escondido, California.At this time the Bahati Mamas, began selling their produce for extra income and in 2009, they started their own organic produce farming business. For the past five years the Bahati Mamas have sold their produce locally; mainly in the City Heights Farmers market.“All our produce is organic,” said one of the Bahati Mamas, Sitey Mbere.“We would like to put our produce in local schools so our children can get healthy food.”“We are lucky to live in a place like San Diego that reminds us of our homeland,” said Hawa Ahamd, one of the Bahati Mamas. The Somali Bantu women live in City Heights and say they will never leave the area.Once they outgrew their space at the New Roots Community Garden in City Heights, the Bahati Mamas acquired an additional piece of land in Escondido, California through the IRC, called Tierra Miguel. The IRC facilitates the land usage for the women and the Bahati Mamas pay a monthly fee to farm the land and sell their fresh, organic produce to local markets.With the help of organizations such as the IRC, the Bahati Mamas created a successful business from a simple idea. The strong group of Somali Bantu women continues to inspire their families, friends and peers as leaders in their community.The Bahati Mamas, (front to back), Sitey Mbere, Hawa Ahamed and Maganey Ramazani, are transporting soil to a field at the Tierra Miguel farm in Escondido to prepare for the summer season.The Bahati Mamas go to Tierra Miguel in Escondido every Saturday and Sunday from the early morning to the late afternoon. They use the Somali Bantu community van for transportation and it takes them over an hour to drive each direction, both to and from the farm.“We pay for gas and pay the driver as a thank you for helping with transportation, but our goal is to get our own van with (the Bahati Mama’s) logo someday,” said Mbere.In 2010, the First Lady Michelle Obama came to the New Roots farm to speak about the importance of eating healthy and show her support for urban gardens. The Bahati Mamas were happy that the First Lady supports healthy food. They have hopes the president will come visit the community garden as well because, as they say jokingly, “he’s our brother.”The Bahati Mamas hold on to their old traditions but they believe America has given their families more opportunities then they had in Somalia.The Bahati Mamas have plans to expand their business and hope to gain continued recognition and support from other community-based organizations in the process.“We want everyone to know who the Bahati Mamas are and who the Somalia Bantu (Refugees) are,” said Maganey Ramazani, one of the Bahati Mamas. Although they are proud of the work they have accomplished, the Bahati Mamas say this is just the beginning.Local residents may purchase fresh, organic produce from the Bahati Mamas at the IRC booth at the City Heights Farmers Market from 9 am to 1 pm on Saturdays. For more information on how to support the Bahati Mamas, please visit
  2. Today the EU’s maritime capacity building mission in the Horn of Africa and Western Indian Ocean, EUCAP Nestor, celebrated together with its Somali and Djiboutian partners the successful completion of the first basic training provided to 20 members of Galmudug Coast Guard and 30 members of Bosaso Port Police.The closing ceremony was held at the camp of the Djiboutian Gendarmerie, which hosted the trainees from different regions of Somalia for the past six weeks. The training ran from 22 April to 29 May and was held mainly at the Training Centre of the Djibouti Gendarmerie. Seven specialized trainers from EUCAP Nestor, plus legal and maritime experts, and several trainers from the French base carried out the course, which aimed to further enhance the trainees’ skills to proficiently and confidently carry out their duties within their respective law enforcement agencies.For the ceremony, EUCAP Nestor’s Head of Mission, Etienne de Poncins, and the acting EU Civilian Operations Commander, General Gilles Janvier, present in Djibouti to support the mission after a terrorist attack in Djibouti left three EUCAP Nestor staff injured, were joined by Djibouti Minister of Interior Hassan Omar Mohamed, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Ali Hassan, Members of Parliament and dignitaries of the Federal Government of Somalia, the State Minister of Puntland, the Minister of Fishery, Marine Resources and Ports of Galmudug and other dignitaries from Puntland and Galmudug. During the ceremony, the Minister of Interior conveyed a message of support to EUCAP Nestor and to its injured staff.At the closing ceremony, Civilian Operations Commander Gilles Janvier said: “The conclusion of this training despite the difficult circumstances (…) shows that the EU is committed to pursue its efforts and to achieve tangible results by strengthening Somali law enforcement capacities. We are pleased for the engagement of the Federal Government of Somalia and the regional entities of Puntland and Galmadug and look forward to continued collaboration on strengthening maritime security in the region”.“This first basic training was a success, thanks to the invaluable support of all our partners, and last but not least thanks to the efforts made by the training team” said EUCAP Nestor Head of Mission, Etienne de Poncins expressing his gratitude towards all those who helped to make the course a success. “ Our efforts will not stop here and in the coming months a series of events are already foreseen such as a Regional Prosecutors Conference as well as another 6 weeks training for new recruits from Somali Maritime Security entities.”The course content was developed in close cooperation with Puntland and Galmudug authorities. Theory was combined with practical exercises, addressing various areas, including basic crime scene investigation, first aid training, communications and navigation, firefighting, basic boarding and intervention techniques, swimming lessons, the International Law of the Sea, and human rights and gender issues. In addition, light equipment was donated to the two law enforcement agencies, including uniforms, sport outfits, first aid kits and life jackets that the students can now use in the execution of their tasks.Building on the success of the course, EUCAP Nestor is planning to provide similar training to a new group of officers from the Bosaso Port Police and the Galmudug Coast Guard later this year.BackgroundEUCAP Nestor is a civilian EU mission, under the Common Security and Defence Policy, that assists host countries in the Horn of Africa and Western Indian Ocean region to develop a self-sustainable capacity for enhancement of the maritime security, including counter-piracy and maritime governance.
  3. If you are British and think that every British citizen enjoys the same rights, my story and those of thousands of others should convince you otherwise. I arrived in Britain in 1999 having fled the civil war in my home country, Somalia. My asylum application was approved a year later. During that time I was given accommodation and a weekly food voucher worth 35. For this I will always be grateful. As soon as I was permitted to seek employment I started looking for a job. I worked in a laundry, a warehouse and as a taxi driver simply to survive. Later I trained to become a journalist. I joined Channel 4 News as a reporter, largely covering Africa a role that required frequent travelling. And that is when my nightmare at the hands of Britain’s security services began. I have been detained, questioned and harassed almost every time I have passed through Heathrow airport. In 10 years, only one of my colleagues has been stopped. During the past five years I have also been repeatedly approached by security services trying to “recruit” me. The incentives they offer range from a “handsome salary” or a “nice car” to a “big house”. I have even been told that they “could help me marry four wives”. I have declined all their offers. Their psychological tactics include telling me how easy it is for them to take away my British passport and destroy my career and even my life. I have received regular phone calls from people I believe to be Special Branch, who invite me for a “chat over coffee”. “No thanks, I don’t drink coffee,” I reply. As someone who appears on television regularly it is not unusual for strangers to greet you in the street or even ask questions about a particular story you’ve done. But the people who follow me on the street the spies (I call them “the Vauxhall guys”) have a different approach. After introducing themselves by their first names they declare their interest. Would I like a chat and a coffee. It won’t take long. Their hunting ground is London’s Victoria station, which I use regularly. I go to the EU and British passport holders’ queue when returning through Heathrow airport; I observe with interest as fellow travellers file smoothly past border control. Yet when I approach, trouble always follows. “Where are you from?”, “How did you obtain a British passport?”, “Have you ever been in trouble with immigration?” I answer all their questions courteously and respectfully until the inevitable happens and the official says: “Take a seat, I will be back.” Returning from my most recent trip, I took my regular seat near the control desk. Half an hour later a grey-suited man sat next to me.”Hello, how are you?” he asked. “Are you from Somalia? I hear from other Somalis that things are improving now. That is what I would like to talk to you about.” I told him that I didn’t particularly want to talk about Somalia and that I just wanted to go home. “Don’t try and be difficult,” he snapped at me. “I’ll detain you if you don’t answer my questions.” And so it continued for another 15 minutes, during which he continued with his threats and with calling me an “idiot” and a “bad person”, claiming “you will die angry and the world would be a better place without people like you”. Finally he compared me to “the racist thugs we are fighting”. If there is one thing I’ve learned from such encounters, it is that carrying a British passport doesn’t necessarily make you feel British. I came to this country to seek sanctuary. I am a multi-award winning journalist. I am an immigrant and a refugee but I am still made to feel like an asylum seeker. I am a Muslim, an African and a Somali. And should the security services be reading this: I am a British citizen. Please treat me like one. Jamal has won several awards including the Royal Television Society (RTS) Independent Award 2012, the Amnesty International Gaby Rado Memorial Award 2010, the news story of the year prize at the Foreign Press Association (FPA) Awards 2009; the prize for Kingston University News Reporter of the Year 2009; was nominated for the FPA Sports Award 2011, the RTS Independent Award 2010; Amnesty International Media Awards 2009; Rory Peck Impact Award 2009
  4. IT’S a volcano, but not as we know it. This cerulean eruption takes place in the Danakil Depression, a low-lying plain in Ethiopia. The volcano’s lava is the usual orange-red – the blue comes from flames produced when escaping sulphuric gases burn.French photographer Olivier Grunewald creates such images without using colour filters or digital enhancement, which is no simple task. To get this shot he had to wait until dusk, when the electric blue flames were visible, but before all the daylight had ebbed away. Then the wind had to be blowing away from him so he could get close enough. Photographing the similarly sulphurous Kawah Ijen volcano in Indonesia, where he worked inside the crater, was even more treacherous. “We have to take care when the winds push the flames close to us,” he says. “In Danakil it is easier to escape as the land is flat.”Grunewald works in a gas mask to avoid breathing in the deadly fumes – but photographing Kawah Ijen still left him with peeling skin and clothes smelling of rotten eggs for weeks afterwards.Another drawback of Grunewald’s subject matter is that the acidic gases don’t agree with his cameras. But it’s worth it, he says. “The phenomenon is so uncommon – we really feel like we are on another planet.”Source: New Scientist
  5. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud's decision to pardon former chief of the Somali Custodial Corps Abdi Mohamed Ismail, who was serving a life sentence after being found guilty of having ties to al-Shabaab, has sparked widespread reproach at a delicate time for the president. The Somali Criminal Investigation Department (CID) arrested Ismail in October 2013, and he was tried in the military court, which handed down the life sentence after finding him guilty of releasing al-Shabaab inmates from Mogadishu Central Prison. Mohamud, in an interview May 20th with Somalia's Universal TV, said he pardoned Ismail after receiving an appeal from Ismail's family that he was ill. The president's statement was brief and the government has provided no additional information on the decision or on Ismail's illness. Somali political and legal analysts decried the pardon, expressing shock at the president's decision. "It truly surprised us when we heard that the president has pardoned the previous chief of the Custodial Corps who was found to have a connection to al-Shabaab," said Nur Abdullahi Roble, a former Somali army colonel and current member of Somalia's Peoples Party. "A person can be pardoned, but that forgiveness has to come from the state and the Somali people and consideration has to be given to the crimes the person has committed," he told Sabahi. "However, the president is the current leader of the country and he is the one who can know his own motives behind the pardon he has extended." Roble said the president's pardon was an example of the ineffective justice system in Somalia. "We see many criminals just being released," he said. "I personally do not know about the real situation of some of the people, but the word is that [their freedom] is bought." 'Encouraging terrorism' Deputy Chairman of Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa's executive committee Sheikh Ahmed Abdullahi Ilkaase said Ismail's release has created a new fear among the Somali people -- that anyone they report to the security agencies for having ties to al-Shabaab could receive a pardon and be back on the streets. The pardon is worrisome, said Ilkaase. "It makes it seem that government leaders are encouraging terrorism. That [it is acceptable] for government officials to aid [terrorists] and that if they are convicted they can easily obtain the pardon of the country's top leaders," he said. If a top prison official can be pardoned after being convicted of facilitating acts of terrorism or taking bribes to release criminals, he said, then "nothing can be taken for granted". The pardon will also be a precedent for releasing others who are currently in jail for having ties to al-Shabaab, he said. The handling of this case will affect how every individual in the chain of command, from the president to the lowest ranking official, will address future cases, he said. The pardon will also negatively impact public confidence in the system and will make it less likely for people to report suspicious activity, he said. "[W]hen a person convicted of terrorism is released, it is possible that he can kill anyone he wants." Ilkaase said the president's pardon based on the request of Ismail's family was akin to favouritism, and he questioned the legality of such an action. "There is no Somali person who does not have a family, so it is clear that it is permissible for any family that has a family member convicted of acts of terrorism to ask the president for his pardon," he said. "This does not apply to only that person, because if [the president] accepts the request of one family whose relative has been jailed for terrorism and denies [the request of] another family, it will be a major crime he has committed against the Somali people. It will become favouritism." Ilkaase called on parliament to expedite the passage of Somalia's anti-terrorism law so that there can be a clear law to guide the fight against terrorism. Tribalism in the justice system Mogadishu resident Qamar Abdi, 34, said one of the problems in Somalia's justice system is the heavy reliance on tribalism. "Every criminal is followed by his clan's chief elder who is [vouching for his release]," she told Sabahi. "The government was established by clan elders, therefore, for the president it has become more important to appease the clan elders rather than the public [in order to keep their support]," she said. "However, the president should know that every [somali] individual arrested for being [a member of] al-Shabaab comes from a clan and he should know no one should be above the law." Abdi said clan elders must also take responsibility and stop continuously pressuring government officials to release members of their own clans who are known to have committed acts of terrorism against their own country. Muna Jibril, a 27-year-old Hamar Weyne resident who studied international relations at Kampala International University, said the president should pay compensation to the victims of terrorism since he has pardoned a person who has been found guilty of working with al-Shabaab. "If al-Shabaab has not yet killed one of [the president's] sons, there are parents whose children have been slaughtered in front of them and who had patiently [accepted] the decisions of the Somali justice system, which had a bad reputation to begin with," she told Sabahi. Jibril encouraged citizens to hold public protests against the pardoning of al-Shabaab members and those who agree with the terrorists. Source:
  6. Secrecy: Lewthwaite pictured in 2008Hunted White Widow Samantha Lewthwaite has got married to a ruthless terror chief while on the run in lawless Somalia.Intelligence sources claim the British fugitive tied the knot with suspected warlord Hassan Maalim Ibrahim, also known as Sheikh Hassan.He is a senior commander in radical terror group al-Shabaab – allies of al-Qaeda.The marriage, Lewthwaite’s third, means she will be offered better ­protection by her new husband’s heavily-armed relatives as security agencies step up the hunt for her.She has already ditched her inner circle of bodyguards, dubbed the Suicide Brigade, who were looking after her night and day.Sources have reported seeing bombing suspect Lewthwaite and Hassan in the remote village of Nasable, 25 miles from the south central Somali city of Baidoa where the mum-of-four was spotted last November.A senior security insider said: “Her in-laws will treat her very well as she is now one of them and part of one of the large clans.“Samantha is in a heavily guarded village in a no-go area for outsiders.“But we’re sure she’ll move around which is why she needs to get in with the family. "At the moment she hardly leaves her grass thatch house.“She wears black socks and gloves and hijab to cover her white skin so spies won’t see her.“Samantha has given herself great protection with this marriage.”Lewthwaite, widow of twisted 7/7 London suicide bomber Germaine Lindsay, was also believed to be married to former Kenyan naval officer turned terrorist Abdi Wahid.Sources have revealed he left her to fight for al-Shabaab after being selected to lead a suicide unit targeting Kenyan soldiers fighting in Somalia.It is not known if he is dead or alive.Detectives believe Wahid could be behind a double bomb attack in a Nairobi market this month which left 10 people dead and scores wounded.Lewthwaite has been on the run for nearly three years after being linked to a failed 2011 plot to blow up hotels and a mall in Mombasa, Kenya.She became the world’s most wanted female terrorist when she was linked to last September’s Nairobi mall massacre that killed 67 shoppers, including five Britons. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the atrocity.The group has also been blamed for a string of grenade blasts and murders in Kenya. Somalia British and American ­embassies have since warned tourists against travelling to the country.Security services believe Lewthwaite, from Aylesbury, Bucks, is still directing murderous operations from inside Somalia and is on a revenge mission after her terror mentor and al-Qaeda chief Sheikh Abubakar Shariff Ahmed was killed in Mombasa last month.The Muslim convert has two children by Jamaican-born Islamist Lindsay, who slaughtered 26 ­innocent people on a London Tube train in the 2005 7/7 attacks.He had already passed on his sickening ideology to his wife.Despite branding the ­bombings, which killed 52 and injured 700 more, as “abhorrent”, soldier’s daughter Lewthwaite fled the UK, surfacing in Africa in 2009.After the Nairobi bombing she is said to have slipped back into Somalia, making some of the journey on a camel.Last October, the Mirror published exclusive photos showing her cradling newborn baby Surajah, her daughter with Wahid.Eldest son Abdullah, nine, and eight-year-old girl Ruqayyah – from her relationship with Lindsay – stood by her as she lay in South African hospital bed in June 2010.Behind Lewthwaite, Wahid hugged the couple’s son Abdur-Rahman.A source said: “Samantha Lewthwaite lives a double life of a doting mother and international terrorist side by side.”She was once in a ­relationship with another al-Shabaab Brit, Habib Saleh Ghani, 28, from Hounslow, West London. Reuters Danger: Somalia's al Shabaab rebel group He was killed last year in Somalia.Lewthwaite’s appearance may have changed with plastic surgery. It is thought she has dyed her hair and lost more than two stone.Sources believe she has become ­increasingly desperate, fearing a raid by Special Forces.Four months ago she fled an al-Qaeda training camp after it was bombed.She is also living in fear as up to 10,000 troops from the UN peacekeeping force and local army soldiers have launched a major offensive against al-Shabaab.Lewthwaite is considered a valued propaganda figure by the terror group .And she is said to be hell-bent on avenging her former teacher Ahmed’s death.Apart from Lewthwaite, he is believed to have recruited hundreds of Brits, including, her friend Jermaine Grant, now on trial in Kenya accused of bomb plots, and Lee Rigby’s killer Michael Adebolajo.It is believed she is ­determined to hit Western targets . But a few weeks ago her terrorist disciples killed 21 people with a suicide attack in Baidoa.On Saturday suicide gunmen bombers stormed the Somali parliament in Mogadishu, killing at least 10 people.They also recently drove a truck into a police compound murdering 28 officers and injuring 31.Al-Shabaab fanatics are fighting to impose sharia law in Somalia. They have banned TV, football, music, dancing and even mobile ringtones.Lewthwaite converted to Islam when she was a teenager and started to wear full length robe and veils at school.Her terrorist manifesto was uncovered by The Mirror in Kenya.It revealed she brainwashed young radicals for a holy war against the West.She is the subject of a manhunt in nearly 200 countries.A source said: “As long as she is free she is a danger.”
  7. If Amal Farah were not living in Britain, she believes she might well be dead. For the 33-year-old financial manager had carried out an act so heinous, her family felt she deserved to die. Her crime? She had renounced her Islamic faith and converted to Christianity – “and within my community, that’s a capital offence,” she said. “They believe you deserve to die.” Mrs Farah, who was born in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, but now lives in Britain, has never told her story before. She was too afraid; told that, even in the UK, it was safer for her to keep a low profile. But when earlier this month the case of Meriam Ibrahim came to light – aneight-month pregnant Sudanese woman, sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her Christian faith – Mrs Farah felt she had to speak out.“I had to do something,” she said. “I am so fortunate to be here, and I am in a position to be able to shout and scream and say this is wrong.”Her voice quavering, fighting back tears, she said: “I read her story and thought: 'That could so easily have been me.’”Meriam Ibrahim with her husband Daniel WaniMs Ibrahim currently awaits her fate in a cell in Khartoum, shackled by the ankles, having refused an offer from a judge to renounce her Christianity. She also faces 100 lashes for "adultery" - the court does not recognise her marriage to a Christian man, Daniel Wani, who has American citizenship.She told the court that her Muslim father abandoned the family when she was young, so as a child she had been brought up a Christian.A petition to quash Ms Ibrahim’s sentence, organised by Amnesty International, has been signed by 640,000 people so far – but the rights group has been barred from Sudan since 2005.For Mrs Farah, many of the parallels between her own life and Ms Ibrahim’s are striking.Both women are pregnant with their second child. Both were born in the Greater Horn of Africa region. And both lost their fathers when they were young girls.Ironically, Mrs Farah’s father was very secular. A high-ranking general in the Somali army, he served under Siad Barre, the military dictator, before going into exile in Ethiopia, where he campaigned for democracy. When Mrs Farah was aged just three, he was killed by a landmine.“After that, little by little, my mother became more religious,” she said. “We were all Muslims, of course, but the older I got the more I was told to pray, to wear conservative clothes and so on. It wasn’t that I disliked Islam per se. But I disliked being told what to do, like being forced to wear the hijab. I dreamt of having control over my own life.”A turning point came, she said, when her mother prepared her for circumcision, a practice now widely viewed as barbaric, and better known as female genital mutilation.“I was really scared, and she was talking about how it was religious purification – an essential rite. I asked if there was anything I could do to change her mind, and she said no. I think that’s when I realised that I hated this feeling of powerlessness.”When Mrs Farah was 18, the family fled Somalia – her mother, who had remarried, her stepfather, and her four half-siblings.And it was when she began her degree in molecular biology at a British red-brick university that a new world opened up for her.“It was a revelation,” she said. “I met atheists, staunch Christians, Jews, Hindus – they challenged me about my views, and I about theirs. It was an incredible sensation to be able to ask questions, and discuss ideas without fear, without looking over my shoulder. I had been in a cocoon – unquestioning, with everyone told they had to think the same way.“It happened very organically for me. Initially I started exploring my own faith, reading all I could on the Koran – different translations, historical perspectives, listening to cassettes of various Saudi or Egyptian imams.“At first my Mum thought it was wonderful. And I really did see the goodness in it; the sense of generosity, of speaking the truth, and not back biting. I don’t think it is a terrible religion at all.”But she felt in her heart that it was not for her – and that, to be true to herself, she could no longer call herself a Muslim.Yet finally she dared to broach the subject gently with her family – saying she was “having doubts about Islam” – her mother was “heartbroken”.“My mother’s first words were: ’But you’re going to hell!’ They see that life is a test, and that my decision was but a challenge to my faith, and one which should be overcome.”At first they tried to persuade her. Cousins telephoned her constantly, and an uncle was dispatched from Saudi Arabia to spend three days “answering her questions”.In the eyes of the deeply-conservative Somali community in Leicester, of which her family was part, renouncing Islam was an act potentially punishable by death.“It became more threatening. My mother felt incredibly guilty – she was also very, very angry."She blamed herself for the exposure to corrupt Western ways, and said: 'I knew it was wrong to bring you here. It was like putting you in the sea and asking you not to taste salt.’”Mrs Farah has not spoken to her relatives since 2005.She is adamant that it is not a problem with Islam, but rather one of intolerant societies.“If you look at the Old Testament, there are some shocking things there,” she said. “But Jewish society realises that it’s no longer acceptable to stone someone to death, or to cut out their eyes, or enslave them. And the vast majority of Muslims realise that too.“It’s just the extremists in Pakistan or Saudi or Sudan who fail to see the message of humanity behind the words.”The crime of apostasy – for which Ms Ibrahim has been sentenced to death – is defined as the renouncing of your religion.Some divisions of Christianity – among them Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Baptists – believe apostasy is a sin. But it is mainly seen as an Islamic crime, based on a Hadith – saying - from Prophet Muhammad who said, “Whoever changes his religion kill him.” But many scholars point out that numerous verses in the Koran guarantee freedom of belief.Nina Shea, director of the Centre for Religious Freedom at New York’s Hudson Institute, said that apostasy from Islam is criminalised in many, though not all, Muslim-majority states. Turkey does not criminalise it, but Iran and Saudi Arabia do imprison converts. Actual executions by governments for conversion are virtually unheard of today.“In the case of Meriam Ibrahim, the government of Sudan is adopting the practice of Islamic extremist groups like Boko Haram, al-Shabab, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” she said. “All of those groups do put Christian converts to death.”Mrs Farah tries not to think about her estranged family.Her mother moved the family back to Somalia shortly after they last spoke – fearful that more of her children would abandon the faith. For her own safety, the Telegraph is not revealing particulars about where she now lives in Britain.“I try to focus on the positive things,” Mrs Farah said. “I craved my freedom, and it took me a long time to be brave enough. I try not to think of my family, as it upsets me too much. I just wish, idealistically I suppose, that it didn’t have to be like this.Source:
  8. The gentle nature and its oddly-shaped back made the camel a man's best friend in the dry deserts of Asia and North Africa. But Kalle, Anna and their son Karlsson are three Bactrian camels who roam the roads of rural Sweden. Just as they make for an unusual sight in the snow blanketed fields, the story of their caretaker, the Somali-born Ali Abdullahi Hassan, is as unusual. SOUNDBITE: Ali Abdullahi Hassan, camel herder, saying (Somali) "I never imagined that I would work with camels in Sweden because I had never seen a camel here since I arrived. But when I came to Gyttorp I saw the camels and now I hope that camel herding will increase here. Perhaps one day they will have camel racing just as they race horses here." Hassan came to Gyttorp in central Sweden in 2007. He was working at odd jobs when he heard that a local couple needed a camel attendant because they were difficult to ride. Hassan, who grew up in a farm in Somalia, always had a knack for training camels, although the weather here proved to be a challenge. SOUNDBITE: Ali Abdullahi Hassan, camel herder, saying (Somali) "Sweden is snowy for six months and Somalia has sunshine the year around, so in Somalia you are able to work outside all the time. But here in Gyttorp, I am not able to work outside everyday for six months, so that is a big difference. In spite of the weather, we continue to work with the camels." The owners of the farm bought the animals in the hope to offer camel rides to visitors one day. With Hassan's help that might be sooner rather than later.Source: Reuters.
  9. In a small town in northern Norway the young man across the table avoids looking me in the face. “I’m little shy because of my eye,” he says with a somewhat sheepish grin in the direction of the table. The eye in question, the right, is bloodied and a little swollen. The large brown iris seems to float in a sea of red. A few days ago Ismael Khalif Abdulle took an elbow to the face while playing football, but considering Ismael’s experience with injuries it’s a heartening to hear, if not a little surprising, this is the one he is self-conscious about. “When I was 16 I lost my right arm and left foot,” says the nearly 21-year-old. “I said no to join the al-Shabab group and that’s why they did it.” Ismael blurts out this fact with the air of someone telling you an interesting development in the day’s weather. Suddenly and brutally becoming a double amputee was a grim end to an old life and the rocky start of a new one – one that took him out of the heart of Africa and up to the Arctic Circle three years ago. “When I came to Harstad it was snowy and nighttime – always. There was no day,” says Ismael. “I was freaking out.” Norway is one of the leading countries for refugee and asylum seeker acceptance in the world and the northern part of the country has become an unlikely haven for hundreds of young people escaping their homelands. Ismael grew up in war-torn Somalia. The country accounts for 3.9 percent of the total number of global asylum seekers; it was the eighth most common place of origin in 2013, down from third place in 2009. Mogadishu, the capital, was the epicentre of a vicious terrorist cell called al-Shabab. This Al-Qaeda affiliated group is an aggressive recruiter of young men whom they train to become suicide warriors. They have systematically and effectively convinced hundreds of boys to dream of one day detonating themselves for the cause. But when they came knocking on Ismael’s door telling him it was time to join, he said no. “I didn’t want to be part of them,” says Ismael. “I said to the other young guys this is not your future. I said, ‘go to school, take care of your family.’” But al-Shabab does not take no for an answer. After repeated refusals they kidnapped Ismael and three other young boys who had resisted joining. After a few days in captivity they brought them to the city’s stadium and, in front of a crowd of thousands, conducted a public amputation. Ismael was first to feel the knife. “They didn’t give us any medicine for the pain before they did it. We had nothing.” After they cut off his hand and foot they left Ismael bleeding and in agony on the ground while they mutilated the remaining three boys. He nearly bled to death. The four were taken to a house and told to wait for medicine, presumably to fight infection and for the pain. They lay in the house, unmoving, as they were ordered, for three hours before anyone returned. Their severed limbs were hung in the town square as a warning to others. But just two weeks later al-Shabab came back to Ismael and said they didn’t feel they had exacted their pound of flesh. “After 15 days they came back and said it wasn’t enough on my foot and they had to take more,” recalls Ismael. “They used a saw to cut more, higher up.” Maimed again and knowing his life was in extreme danger Ismael decided to flee Somalia. After a series of handoffs and encounters with helpful relatives and sponsorship from a Canadian donor, Ismael was eventually smuggled into Nairobi where he made a desperate application, through the UN, to seek asylum in Canada, Finland or Norway. After two weeks Ismael was accepted in Norway and soon thereafter he boarded a plane to a place where he would buy his first ever winter coat, see snow for the first time in his life and have to learn a new language and way of living – one he never could have imagined before. The five Nordic countries received 76,400 requests, in total, with Sweden accepting 70 per cent of these applications, which equates to accepting 9 percent of the total global asylum applications. Norway received 11,500 claims – a two percent share of the global total. For the last three years Europe has been the primary region sought by asylum seekers – in 2013 Europe received 484,600 asylum claims from across the globe. The US and Canada are second. Canada approved a paltry 10,400 new claims in 2013. That’s a 50 percent decrease from the 20,500 accepted in 2012. They now match Norway in accepting only two percent of the global asylum seekers. This month Oslo played host to a UN-led conference about the ongoing refugee crisis in South Sudan. The assembled parties pledged money and refuge for the terrorized civilians caught in the conflict. It was an important reiteration and reminder of aid in a country where, every year, the doors close a little more on refugees and asylum seekers. Ismael is one story out of thousands of young refugees who have ended up scattered across northern Norway and whose lives have been dominated by war, religious persecution, famine and more. They arrive in the Arctic Circle determined to start a new life and throw themselves into the community, learning the language, getting jobs and, most importantly, getting an education. It is this last opportunity that excites them the most. The day after we met, I visited Ismael’s English class to talk to the students about Canada. “They will have lots of questions,” he assured me. He was right: as I fielded questions about what jobs are available in Canada, to what my education was, and how and why I wanted to become a journalist, it was painfully obvious how eager and excited the students were about the new life and opportunities that lay before them. “We have a great chance in Norway,” says Ismael after class. “I’m just a young guy living in Norway, I get summer vacation, I get a job. I think back on that life…my country was in civil war for 25 years.” Now these students, transplants from some of the most violent and unstable places in the world, look towards the future with excitement rather than trepidation. One 24-year-old student with eight children dreams of being a nurse, a young man from Burma an engineer. And Ismael, “It’s my favourite job being a journalist.” He may pick up a pen or a camera one day and start recording the stories of others, but Ismael and his friends also dream of starting a Norwegian-Somali foundation to help more young people caught in the middle of conflict. “When you go back to Somalia, you can’t go just you. You have to bring something,” says Ismael. “It’s my plan now to help these young children out of the situation.” Today, when he’s not in school, Ismael helps recent refugees settle into their new Arctic lives by taking them to buy coats, translating banking information or inviting them to play a game of pick up football. The refugee resettlement program in Harstad, founded by Ola Steinvoll, is five years old now and has helped hundreds of asylum seekers establish new lives. As we walk through the village square, cobbled side streets and past the harbour every few steps there is a family who knows Ismael. “These people…they are my family now,” he says after picking up a particularly adorable toddler wrapped up in a purple jacket and giving her a cuddle. It’s these types of bonds that are particularly important for the incoming families. “When you come to Norway it’s hard to get in. It’s not an open society,” says Mustafa Almi, a friend of Ismael’s and co-student, also from Somalia. “It’s wonderful here and I really appreciate the Norwegian government, [but] Norway is alone,” he says. “They don’t let you know you are welcome. Little things like that.” Coming from the streets of Mogadishu where the electric blue ocean crashes against white sand beach and the clamour of the market carries for blocks, Harstad must have seemed almost sterile in comparison. “When I came I became another person,” says Mustafa. “You have peace, but you don’t have the social. It’s very closed and I used to ask why.” Mustafa describes how in high school, where he and Ismael are headed next year, he’s heard the Norwegians sit on one side of the room and “the black boys – the immigrants – are on this side.” Norway, like many other countries, is becoming more closed off to refugees. The country has been accused of ignoring its racist undertones, but events like the brutal shooting rampage of Anders Behring Breivik three years ago have forced Norwegians to contemplate the place of race in their society. It’s an ongoing discussion and, for Mustafa and others, it remains a frosty relationship sometimes. Ismael doesn’t articulate exactly the same experience. He says “hi” to people in the street and they say “hi” back. It’s perhaps not the frenetic exchange of his childhood – at one point I was sure a group of Somali boys sitting in a cluster around a table were a few exclamations away from a fistfight, but Ismael assures me over their raised voices, “oh, they are just talking about football” – but it’s a calm reservation that has its upsides too. “You feel peaceful. You feel what peace is. You see more things and [it’s] a new world,” says Ismael. “I was hearing the guns every morning until I was 18. It became normal.” Through Norway Ismael has a future. He has built a family, made friends, and learned how to live independently. He is excited to start his first job this summer. In Norway Ismael’s missing hand and foot were replaced, the latter with not one, but three different prosthetics. “There is one for walking, one for swimming and one for running,” he says; proudly describing how he can still run faster than many of the other kids. I don’t need to ask him to show me. As we climb a hill in town Ismael takes long, quick strides up, leaving me to pant in his wake. I ask Ismael if he gets sick of telling his story, sick of remembering all the time. He sighs. “Sometimes. But it also feels good to talk about it and it’s important to tell my story.” And is he scared of al-Shabab killing him one day for telling the world what happened? He shrugs, then smiles. “No – not really. If you are afraid to tell the truth…then you are already dead.” SOURCE:
  10. Grasping his mobile phone, Abdirizak Yussuf Mahmoud prowls the Mohamud Haybe livestock market outside Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. A camel catches his eye and the bargaining begins. He shakes the hand of the trader, haggling in a silent code. Pinching an index finger adds 1,000 dollars to the price; grabbing a hand means 5,000 more.Once agreement is reached, the handshake is broken. A quick chat confirms the details, before the sale is completed by mobile phone. No cash changes hands, no papers are signed. Instead, Yussuf Mahmoud types into his handset, the seller's phone chirps, and the deal is done.Such scenes are commonplace in Somaliland, where innovation and technology are filling the void left by the absence of international commercial banks and formal banking infrastructure.In the past, a purchase like Yussuf Mahmoud's would have required a signed letter authorising the withdrawal of cash from one of Hargeisa's many money transfer operators. Now the favoured transaction mechanism is Zaad, a pioneering mobile money platform inspired by Kenya's M-Pesa service.Zaad, launched in 2009 by mobile network operator Telesom, has boomed in Somaliland. More than 10% of the region's 3.8 million people are subscribers, and Zaad account numbers are displayed on walls and shop signs. Its usage ranges from livestock trade to commerce, university fees to electric bills. Money transfer operators continue to dominate international transactions, but in Somaliland they have lost ground to Zaad.Abdikarim Mohamed Eid, chief executive of Telesom, says people were initially sceptical about the service. "We had to win their trust. So we convinced employers to pay salaries through Zaad and created an ecosystem. If everybody accepted Zaad, everybody would pay with it."Within a year, the strategy began to work. Subscriptions increased, and in 2011 Telesom launched Salaam, an Islamic financial institution offering services – including savings accounts, current accounts and small loans – accessible through Zaad. The financial community began to take notice, and promises of a "cashless economy" and "branchless banking" in the Horn ofAfrica soon followed.Adbullahi Hassan, 24, a money vendor in Hargeisa, says Zaad has changed the way he works. "We turn paper money into 'Zaad money', so people can walk safe and carry [it] with them."A stroll through the capital shows that cash still matters, however. The legal tender in Somaliland is the shilling, but Zaad deals in US dollars. Consequently, those most likely to use it are private sector employees, development workers, and recipients of international remittances."We civil servants are paid in Somaliland shilling," said Wali Daud Egal, director of planning at the finance ministry. "By accelerating the dollarisation of the economy, Zaad props up prices, and this affects us in particular."The governor of the Bank of Somaliland, Abdi Dirir Abdi, says Zaad "causes inflation and offends the dignity of our legal tender. In Kenya or Tanzania, mobile money companies use the local currency. Why here is it different?"There are no published studies linking Zaad to inflation, though the service does fall within a regulatory vacuum: Zaad has implemented practices compliant with international anti-money laundering standards, but there is no state regulatory framework and parliamentary discussions about a commercial banking law have dragged on. While celebrating the usefulness of Zaad, many in Somaliland acknowledge Telesom's unchecked influence on the economy.The local money transfer giant is preparing to launch its own mobile money service, E-Dahab. Dahabshiil is often cited as one of Africa's brightest business stories. Its foray into mobile money will have the benefit of a far-flung network of money transfer agents, allowing Somalilanders abroad to send money home by mobile phone.In response, Zaad is going international. After striking a deal with Tawakal and WorldRemit, two money transfer operators, it promises to shake up the remittance business.Some say the brewing competition between Telesom and Dahabshiil has laid bare the failure of Somaliland's authorities to monitor or regulate mobile money. Others argue this focus does little to help expand access to financial services. Company bosses believe real financial inclusion will happen only when Somaliland is properly integrated into the global banking system.Safyia Cisman Taani, a local consultant for the International Labour Organisation, points to the challenges women face in rural areas. "They have no collateral to apply for a loan, whatever the means, either in cash or in mobile money," she says. "Often they cannot even open a Zaad account because they lack an ID. Financial inclusion should go hand-in-hand with political inclusion."Travel and reporting for this article was supported by a grant from the European Journalism CentreSource:
  11. Mothers tend to always want what is best for their children, which includes the best conditions where this child can grow up and become a productive person in society. Well, one thing is certain; no mother would want to grow her child in Somalia under the current system in the country.Somalia is home to a third of global child death due to the country being in constant conflict. This makes Somalia the worst place to grow a child and nothing seems to be changing anytime soon. The information came from an annual snapshot from aid agency Save the Children.In the 178-country list [pdf], the top 10 worst places to grow a child all have latest history of armed conflicts and face serious challenges going forward. Many of these challenges could take decades to fix, but it is likely the biggest challenge in many of these countries is the lack of proper avenues for education.On the matter of the top 10 best countries to raise a child, Finland takes the top spot, followed by Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Netherlands. We understand that Australia is the only non-European country to feature in the top 10, sitting at a joint number 9 with Belgium.Britain and the United States place on the list is quite disappointing. Britain sits at the number 23 spot while the U.S. drops to number 30.The report takes a number of factors into consideration, which includes health, education, economic and political status of all mothers in these countries, along with health and nutrition where the children are concerned.In Somalia, one in 16 women dies of maternal abuse each year, while, in Finland, only one in 12,000 dies. This is a big difference between the lowest ranked Somalia and the top ranked Finland.Furthermore, 15 percent of all children in Somalia fail to survive until they're 5 years old, compared to the 0.3 percent for Finland.These findings are quite striking when you consider these things are still happening in the 21st century. Countries at the bottom of the list need improvement, but it can only work if the next generation is well educated, or the cycle of death and despair will only continue. TOP 10 COUNTRIES FOR MOTHERS 1. Finland2. Norway3. Sweden4. Iceland5. Netherlands6. Denmark7. Spain8. Germany9. Australia*9. Belgium * (tied) BOTTOM 10 COUNTRIES 169. Cote d'Ivoire170. Chad171. Nigeria172. Sierra Leone173. Central African Republic174. Guinea-Bissau175. Mali*175. Niger* (tied)177. Democratic Republic of Congo178. Somalia
  12. The first payment from Norway to Somali government employees was made last week, and more payments can be expected next month. For more than two decades Somalia has been without any central authority. Conflicts between various groups and the Islamist Al Shabaab has made the country unsafe and in lack of governmental stability. - The past year, however, the country received a new constitution, and the parliament chose Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as their new president. In order to get the new government and bureaucracy up and running, Norway has decided to help finance the salaries of 380 public employees. The country has no banking system, and the payments were made through a fund with a bank office abroad. So far the employees working in Somalia's Ministry of Finance and the office of the Auditor General have received their salaries through this arrangement but it is expected that payments will also be made to other ministries. "We expect a stronger financial sector that can control its budget, be open about its projects, as well as strengthen the government's reputation," says Norway's Minister of Development, Heikki Eidsvoll Holmås. Because Somalia has a history of corruption, the Norwegian government is working with PriceWaterhouseCoopers, who are on the ground in Somalia to help control that the money goes to the right people. Source:
  13. The grandson on the late Mohamed Siyad Barre is held in Turkish jail over terror charges “There is no proof that Ahmed D. is even involved in these types of activities. Whatever the Americans have built the foundation of their case on is completely unclear,” Ahmed’s attorney André Seebregts told NLTimes today. Seebregts’ lawfirm that specializes in human rights violations in terrorism cases, has filed protest against his client’s extradition to the US; a Turkish judge is expected to rule on this on May 22. Ahmed D. (26), the grandson of former Somali president Siad Barre, was raised in the Netherlands. He came here as a toddler in the 1990s with his parents when his grandfather was ejected from the country. He lived here till he was about 17, after which he moved to England where he studied for aircraft mechanic and then to Egypt with his German wife. In August last year Egyptian authorities arrested him at his apartment; apparently they were searching for his roommate. “He said he does not know much about this roommate and what he was into. And that person had not lived there for at least a year before police raided the apartment,” Seebregts said. In March this year Ahmed was suddenly released from prison in Egypt and was transiting through an airport in Turkey on his way back to Amsterdam when he was nabbed by authorities there. Seebregts said that he is questioning the role the Dutch consulate may have played in the US authorities’ plans to to have his client’s arrested by Turkish authorities. Attorney Andre Seebregts, Ahmed had traveled to Turkey at the advice of the Dutch consulate in Cairo, because there supposedly were no direct flights to Amsterdam that day. “The advice he got from the consulate is indeed an element in this case that we are questioning. The Americans rather have that a suspect with a Dutch passport who want to arrest travels to Turkey. If he would arrive in Amsterdam they could request Dutch authorities to arrest and extradite him, but as a Dutch citizen he could apply for a ‘return guarantee’, meaning that he could request for his trial to be held under Dutch jurisdiction. That could lead to a lower sentence than the one he would get in the US. That is not something the Americans want, so we are questioning why a Dutch citizen was advised to travel through Turkey where all this would not be an issue,” Seebregts explained. He said he was also questioning the legitimacy of Achmed’s arrest at the airport in Turkey, as the transit area of an airport is supposed to be international territory. The lawyer said that while all this is playing, Ahmed is mostly happy to be released from the Tora prison in Cairo where he was enduring harsh treatment. “I was not able to visit him there, but I know he was suffering. He was having it hard at the hands of jailers and fellow inmates,” said Seebregts. According to him the Tora prison is overcrowded, leaving inmates with insufficient space for comfortable sleep. While locked up there Ahmed had went on a thirst-strike in protest against the circumstances in the penitentiary. The Netherlands later raised the issue of his health with Egyptian authorities. “He is happy that at least he is out of there; his family is too,” said Seebregts, adding though that the young man’s relatives are now worried about whether he will receive fair treatment from US authorities. He said that if Ahmed would be extradited he would likely end up in the notorious ADXFlorence prison in Colorado, reportedly the most secure prison in the US prison system. “Inmates there are under constant lockdown and are not allowed human contact, not even with the prison guards. His family is worried about that,” said Seebregts. Source:
  14. As almost any Somali living in the U.S. will tell you, sending money to relatives and friends back home is just something that we do. I've grown up seeing my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles do it for years -- it's a fact of life. It's no surprise that every year, Somali migrants send approximately $1.3 billion to Somalia -- a sum far larger than all the official development assistance and direct foreign investment that Somalia receives. When my family left Somalia to go to Yemen, I remember that we used to receive money each month from relatives in the United States. My parents used this money to cover basic household expenses, and for a period, we had no other source of income. I was too young at that time to understand how important this money was, but I can certainly appreciate that now. At that time, my family's situation was not exceptional. Even today, around 41 percent of Somali households receive remittances from overseas on a regular basis. This money is used to buy food, water, and clothes, take care of the sick and send children to school. This is money that millions of people rely on to make ends meet, and many would go hungry without it. Traditionally, the flow of money to Somalia was facilitated by what Somalis refer to as 'Hawalas,' or xawilaad in Somali. This was a system based on relations of trust rather than a formal banking system. It allowed people to transfer funds without paper money ever having to move across the border. While 30 years ago this was a rather informal system, today it's quite sophisticated, and the companies are usually referred to as Money Service Businesses (MSBs). They have branches around the world, Internet services and smartphone apps, just like most global financial businesses. Today when I want to send money to my uncle and his family in Puntland, Somalia, all I have to do is go to an agent in Minneapolis or LA, and hand over the amount I want to send, along with my uncle's contact information. Within a matter of minutes, I'll get a text message confirming that he's received the money, even though he's over 8,000 miles away. This is both incredibly efficient and remarkably inexpensive, with fees far lower than a Western company would demand. But since 9/11, these Somali money transfer companies have come under increased scrutiny, and banks have come to see MSBs as high-risk clients. In the past few years, many of these banks, especially in the U.S. and UK, have closed the accounts that MSBs need in order to be able to transfer the money overseas. To comply with regulations to combat money-laundering and terrorist financing, MSBs have put measures in place to improve security and transparency in line with global financial standards, but the accounts continue to be closed -- and the ultimate victims are the Somalis who rely on remittances from abroad. If Somalia had a functioning banking system, none of this would be a problem. I could directly wire money into my uncle's account, and he could go withdraw it at his local branch, or better yet his local ATM. But this is not the case. Services like Western Union are not really an option either, as they only have one branch in all of Somalia, and charge up to three times as much as MSBs to send money there. Small steps are being taken to protect the remittance flows. Last week, Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota -- who represents my hometown of Minneapolis -- led a successful bipartisan effort to introduce the Money Remittances Improvement Act of 2014 to help Somali families send money home. This legislation, HR 4386, has passed through the House of Representatives and is now going to the Senate for review. It would reduce burden and risk on the banks that service the MSB accounts, improving the likelihood that banks will keep these accounts open. Even the Treasury Department, which has been issuing guidance to strengthen security and oversight over money services, supports this bill. I'm the first to agree that we need to ensure that money being sent to Somalia ends up in the right hands. But the legitimate need to ensure that transfers are transparent and secure shouldn't hurt the most vulnerable populations in Somalia, which depend on remittances from overseas for their daily survival. We need to find a solution that meets the regulatory requirements without harming the senders and receivers of remittances. The human cost of not finding a solution would be astronomical. As we speak, 2.9 million Somalis are facing a humanitarian crisis due to poor rainfall and increasing food insecurity. On May 7, a group of 22 non-governmental organizations working in Somalia, including Adeso, warned the world about the risk of Somalia sliding towards a catastrophic hunger crisis if we don't act now. Remittances are helping to keep Somalis alive now, and they are needed more than ever. Remittances to Somalia are voluntary, family-to-family support, and help to reduce reliance on official foreign aid from American tax dollars. It only makes sense ensure that we keep this critical lifeline open. Barkhad Abdi Become a fanOscar-nominated actor, 2014 BAFTA winner, Goodwill Ambassador for Adeso
  15. Ali Samantar's case goes back to the Supreme Court as Prime Minister Abdiweli reaffirms Somalia's request for immunity For the third time in five years, the Samantar case is back before the Supreme Court. On May 5, former Somali Defense Minister Mohamed Ali Samantar again petitioned for certiorari, after the Fourth Circuit dismissed his appeal of Judge Brinkema’s final judgment in the long-running ATS and TVPA suit against him for human rights violations committed by forces under his command in Somalia. In January, the Supreme Court had denied cert following the Fourth Circuit’s surprising (and, in my view, incorrect) interlocutory decision in 2012 denying him immunity on the basis that “officials from other countries are not entitled to foreign official immunity for jus cogens violations, even if the acts were performed in the defendant’s official capacity.” The high court’s cert denial came after a flurry of confusing communications between Somali officials and the State Department that created uncertainty as to whether the Somali government was still requesting immunity for Samantar. With the proceedings below now completed, and a new Somali Prime Minister reaffirming Somalia’s request for immunity, Samantar is again seeking Supreme Court review. For the legal and policy reasons I have explained previously, I believe the Supreme Court should grant cert and reverse (or vacate and remand). While the Fourth Circuit’s desire to hold Samantar accountable for atrocities committed by Somali soldiers is understandable, this is a case where bad facts have made bad law: The panel’s holding is inconsistent with both domestic and international law governing official acts immunity and with the views of the Executive branch (as explained in the Solicitor General’s brief filed with the Supreme Court last December urging that cert be granted and the decision vacated and remanded). If allowed to stand, the Fourth Circuit decision may also encourage foreign courts to deny immunity to U.S. officials who may be charged with or sued for jus cogens crimes or violations in frivolous actions in other countries.
  16. Somali terror group Als-shabab eyes Malaysia as a new hub for its members hiding from the authorities Members of a Somalia terror group Al-Shabab have been entering Malaysia by pretending to be private college students and tourists, reports in the media say. Analysts warn that lax security measures for visitors make the country vulnerable to terrorists seeking to set up a base in the region. Malaysia's Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Unit has been tracking six Al-Shabaab members - a group linked to the terrorist Al-Qaeda network - who entered the country several weeks ago,The Star newspaper reported yesterday, quoting unnamed police sources. The group had planned to set up a base in Malaysia for terrorists hiding from the authorities, the sources said. They added that the police are monitoring those still in the country, while some have left. "More arrests are expected soon. The police have to act fast before this terrorist group gains a foothold in the country," the English-language daily quoted a source as saying. Police on Thursday arrested a 34-year-old Somalian for his alleged connections with the terrorist group. The man is also wanted by Interpol for alleged terrorist links. The arrest followed the recent detention of 11 members of a Malaysian militant network which has sent fighters to Syria, and which police say has links to Syrian and Philippine militant groups. Analysts say the government's policies in recent years to make Malaysia an education hub for foreign students, as well as to boost tourism, have led to more relaxed immigration enforcement. Shahriman Lockman, a security analyst at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia, said the presence of foreign nationals with alleged links to Al-Shabaab highlights a constant tension between Malaysia's economic and security imperatives. "On the one hand, the government wants to attract foreign students and tourists into the country. On the other hand, there is growing realisation that such economic targets shouldn't come at the expense of security considerations," he told The Straits Times via e-mail yesterday. Malaysia aims to have 200,000 foreign students enrolled in its 60 private colleges and universities in six years' time. There are about 95,000 foreign students now, according to the latest government statistics. They are mostly from China, Indonesia and African countries such as Nigeria. There is also a big presence of students from the Middle East, including Iran and Yemen. Meanwhile, the tourism sector is the country's second-largest foreign-exchange income earner after the manufacturing sector, with revenue of 65.4 billion ringgit (US$20 billion) last year. The government last year tried to control the quality of foreign students entering the country by tightening screening processes and placing a moratorium on education licences to admit foreign students, after multiple cases of students caught working as club hostesses or being involved in drug trafficking and crime. Choong Pui Yee, an analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Nanyang Technological University, said Malaysia has been more vigilant on counter-terrorism in recent years, as seen by the arrest of high-profile terrorist suspect Mas Selamat in 2009. "But tracking down terrorism nests in Malaysia is harder, as these individual suspects may be using Malaysia only as a transit point and hold legitimate visas which enable them to travel in and out more easily," she said. Shahriman said that despite this, Malaysia is unlikely to impose stricter immigration controls. "The allure of having more foreign tourists and students - who bring not only money, but also help to improve university rankings - is strong enough to ensure that Malaysia remains welcoming towards visitors, including those from some of the more troubled parts of the world," he said. Source:
  17. Somali MP: "The reasons why we want Culusow to resign are obviously known by every Somali and clearly stated in detail in the statement letter we had signed and handed to him" Mogadishu - More than 100 Somali lawmakers have signed a letter demanding the president resign for failing to improve security and meet other promises, threatening to impeach him if he does not quit. The petition, the first of its kind against President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, has enough signatures to force an impeachment debate in parliament. But such a move could be blocked by the high court, which would have to approve it, and more backers would be needed to vote Mohamud out. The initiative highlights the growing frustration in Somalia at the government's failure to deliver more tangible change in a nation struggling to rebuild after two decades of war. The president has also faced criticism from Western donors over financial management. Two central bank governors left in quick succession last year. "The reasons why we want him to resign are obviously known by every Somali and clearly stated in detail in the statement letter we had signed and handed to him," Abdiladif Muse Nur, a member of parliament, told Reuters. He said the president had failed to deliver better security, after an upsurge in attacks by Islamist insurgents in Mogadishu that have included the killing of two members of parliament and a raid into the presidential compound. The lawmaker also said Mohamud's government had failed to lift the beleaguered economy, revive public services and reconcile the nation, which includes a region that has declared independence and large areas still under Islamist rebel control. The president, who was picked by parliament, has defended his record and said lawmakers had the right to express their views although he called for a "constructive" discussion. "Let's encourage where there is progress and deliberate on the performance of the sections where there is a setback," he said on Wednesday after the lawmakers announced their plan to demand he resign. Although still full of bombed-out buildings, Mogadishu has enjoyed a mini-boom, with new hotels, restaurants and other buildings going up. It is also collecting more revenues from the port and airport. It plans to tax some thriving companies. The members of parliament said the letter had 116 signatures, more than a third of the 275-seat parliament needed to call for an impeachment debate. But it is short of the two-thirds needed to force him out. One lawmaker said the high court had to assess and approve the validity of any charges of an impeachment request - even if it had the required signatures - and could block it proceeding.
  18. CHEYENNE -- While Wyoming might be the only state in the country without an official refugee resettlement program, that doesn’t mean there aren’t former refugees living in the Cowboy State. There are dozens, perhaps even several hundred, former refugees living in the Capital City alone. Many of these people, like Abdirashid Noor, are from the war-torn east African nation of Somalia. Noor, 32, and many other members of the Somali expat community here immigrated to the United States by way of refugee camps in countries that border Somalia, such as Kenya. Somalia is a majority-Muslim nation of about 10 million people located on the Horn of Africa. The capital of the country is Mogadishu, a city best known to Americans as the site of the Black Hawk Down incident in 1993. Somalis, who are the dominant ethnic group in the country, speak a language called Somali and share a common culture and religion. The vast majority of Somalis, about 85 percent, are Sunni Muslims. In the 19th century, portions of the country were colonized by the British, Italians and French. The country was unified and achieved independence in 1960. That unity, however, was short lived. Civil war “There are no Somali families that have come to the United States who have not lost family members in the civil war,” Noor said. “Two of my uncles were killed in front of my mother. She was helpless. She was standing in front of them watching, and she couldn’t help,” Noor said. “That is the worst thing.” The Somali Civil War is an ongoing conflict that has raged since the country’s central government was overthrown in 1991 by a coalition of clan-based rebel groups, according to information from the United Nations Operation in Somalia. Infighting among these groups eventually drew intervention from the United Nations in the mid-1990s. There was a temporary lull in the conflict during this time. But fighting escalated again around the turn of the century as militant Islamist groups began targeting peace-keeping forces, as well as civilians, in the country. Upwards of 500,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the civil war, and millions more have been displaced, according to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program. Many Somalis who escaped the fighting, including Noor, found themselves in refugee camps in Kenya. “The soldiers were trying to kill everyone. They were aiming for men, but if they didn’t find men, they would kill children and the ladies, rape them, torture them to get the information on where the men are,” Noor said. “Luckily, my dad and my uncle left (the country) two days before the soldiers came to our house. They heard some rumors that people were coming and killing,” he said. Noor, who was a child when the civil war broke out, soon followed suit and left Somalia along with his mother, siblings and several uncles. “There were no vehicles, so we had to walk all the way from Somalia to Kenya,” Noor said. “Some people died on the way because there wasn’t enough water. They couldn’t get food. Some of them were eaten by animals. It was a horrible experience. “Once we got to the border, the men that were guarding it wouldn’t let many people in unless you had money to bribe the guards. We had to stay at the border for like a month. We were just sleeping outside.” Eventually, Noor and his family were admitted into Kenya and placed in a refugee camp. “In the refugee camp, life is hard,” Noor said. “It’s 100 degrees all the time. “It’s so congested, and you are not allowed out of the camp. People fight for space; people fight for work. It was survival of the fittest.” It was in this teeming camp of 120,000 refugees that Noor went to school, learned English and became a Somali-English translator. Noor’s life changed forever in 2007 when he was accepted into the University of Northern Colorado. Greeley connection Noor came to Greeley, Colorado, to study accounting at UNC. As fate would have it, when he arrived, he found that the city was home to a growing Somali community. Unlike Noor, the majority of Somalis in Greeley did not come to attend the university -n they came to work in a nearby meat packing facility operated by the Brazilian meat-processing company JBS. “When people come into this country and they don’t know the language, they have a lot of issues getting jobs,” Noor said. “If you can’t communicate with other people and you can’t understand what other people are saying, they aren’t going to hire you. “So the only area where people from east Africa or Somalia get hired is JBS or another meat plant. They don’t require communication skills as long as you can do the work,” he said. Because jobs at the meat plant are typically low-paying, many of the Somali employees in Greeley rely on government subsidized housing programs like Section 8. As the Somali population in Greeley grew, so did the waiting lists for programs like Section 8. Colette West, co-executive director of the Global Refugee Center in Greeley, said the waiting list for housing subsidies in Colorado can be as long as three years. Noor and many others in Greeley’s Somali community began looking north to Cheyenne for affordable housing options. Mike Stanfield, executive director of the Cheyenne Housing Authority, said, “Some folks (in Colorado) found out the waiting list (for subsidized housing programs) was still open (in Cheyenne) and they came up here and applied.” According to Noor, many of the people in Cheyenne’s Somali community commute to Greeley to work in the meat plant. Others, he said, have taken jobs here in places like the Wal-Mart Distribution Center west of town. Noor and his wife, who worked at the Greeley meat plant, moved to Cheyenne with their newborn son last year. Need for services “The people of Cheyenne are the most welcoming,” Noor said. “The problem is they don’t know anything about us. They are willing to help, but they don’t know where to begin.” In places like Greeley, where Somali communities have existed for years, there is a system in place to help new immigrants gain access to services and educational programs. But because the Somali community here is newer, those services are sometimes harder to find in Cheyenne. “They are going to need help navigating all the systems,” West said. “It’s very hard when you don’t speak the language.” Paul Flesher, director of the University of Wyoming’s Religious Studies Department, said immigrants who come to the United States with different religious and cultural backgrounds are often hesitant to reach out for help. “People don’t want to have public pressure. They don’t want to be singled out. There are still tensions that exist here over issues like 9-11,” Flesher said. “But the biggest problems are often not cultural or religious differences. They are language barrier problems.” Noor agreed. “The biggest problem is getting interpreters,” he said. “For us to be able to assimilate, we first have to find a way to break the language barrier.” Enter Gretchen Carlson. Carlson, along with teachers from Laramie County School District 1 and members of the Cheyenne Evangelical Free Church, have taken it upon themselves to help break the language barrier. Carlson’s group holds English classes for the city’s Somali community every Tuesday at Sunrise Elementary. “These are some of the warmest, friendliest people I’ve met,” Carlson said. “They are so hungry to learn, and they are trying so hard.” The hope is that with these new language skills, the members of the Somali community will be able to find better-paying jobs outside of the meat packing plants. “One of our students has kind of a mantra she likes to say: ‘Bad English, bad jobs. Good English, good jobs,’” Carlson said. And as the city’s Somali population grows, so will the need for services. “There is definitely a need for services,” Carlson said. “These people aren’t going away.” West said, “Having a place similar to (Greeley’s Global Refugee Center) would a great thing for Cheyenne. The more you can work on building community relationships, the better off everyone will be.” Noor, who works part time as a translator with GRC, agreed. But, he said, “I know that it might take a lot of time. It needs a lot of energy. It needs a lot of resources.” Source: Wyoming News
  19. WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration has finalized a 10-year agreement with Djibouti to keep U.S. troops at a military base in the East African nation that houses special forces and serves as a launching point for drones. "This is a critical facility that we maintain in Djibouti," President Barack Obama said Monday during an Oval Office meeting with Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh. "We could not do it without the president's cooperation. We're grateful for him agreeing for a long-term presence there." Djibouti, a tiny nation of less than 1 million people, has become a linchpin of U.S. anti-terrorism efforts in Africa and the Middle East. The U.S. military base Camp Lemonnier houses conventional forces, as well as special forces and aerial drones believed to be flown over Yemen and Somalia. An administration official said the new $63 million per year lease would allow the U.S. to keep personnel and equipment at the camp for 10 more years. The agreement includes an option to extend the lease for an additional 10 years without renegotiating the terms, as well as a provision to extend for an additional 10 years beyond that at a renegotiated rate, according to the official. The official insisted on anonymity because this person was not authorized to discuss the agreement publicly by name. The terms of the lease indicate that the U.S. is likely to maintain a long-term military presence in Djibouti. Camp Lemonnier is the only U.S. base in sub-Saharan Africa. Guelleh said his country's arrangement with U.S. forces is a sign of Djibouti's "support for international peace and for peace in our region as well." Source: AP
  20. The double gold medallist set up the Mo Farah Foundation with his wife Tania in 2011 to help people affected by drought in the Horn of Africa. So far the charity – which is backed by Bono, Sir Bob Geldof, Richard Curtis and Paula Radcliffe – has raised more than £900,000 for poor ­communities in Somalia. But the body originally charged with delivering Mo’s mission on the ground in the country is headed by Dr ­Musharaf Hussain, an Islamic ­ scholar with anti-West views. The Nottingham cleric features in a number of videos on YouTube ­including one in which he uses the offensive ­Arabic term “kuffar” to describe non- Muslims. He goes on to justify the use of jihad by Muslims against non-believers. In a 2010 sermon, he said it was a “wise cause” to fight non-believers “because they are tyrants”. He added: “This is why the Koran says get out and go whether you are lightly armed or heavily armed, whether you have all the means or not, you must take part in this jihad.” The cleric, awarded an OBE in 2009 for services to community relations, then ranted about Britain and ­America’s involvement in conflicts in Muslim lands. He is the head of Muslim Hands, a charity that raised an income of more than £13million last year alone. In accounts posted on the Charity Commission website for the financial year ending March 31, 2013, trustees of the Mo Farah Foundation boasted of their close relationship with Muslim Hands. They said they helped feed 20,000 people, sunk 50 wells, restored three canals and set up a clinic with Dr Hussain’s help. Mo’s charity also lists controversial Islamic organisation Tauheedul Relief Trust as a ­ partner on its website. In February the Trust donated £20,000 to the Mo Farah Foundation. But it later emerged that a school run by the Blackburn-based group forced pupils to wear a hijab in and out of class. AWARD: Controversial Hussain meets Her Majesty the Queen in 2009 [PA] Rules at Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High School also require its 800 pupils to “not bring stationery to school that contains un-Islamic images”. In 2011 Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, a Saudi cleric alleged to have referred to Jews as “pigs” and “scum”, visited the school. Last night Diana Nell – Mo Farah’s sister-in-law, inset, and spokeswoman for the Mo Farah Foundation – claimed the partnership with Muslim Hands was now defunct. She initially denied any link, saying: “I can categorically tell you we are not partnered with Muslim Hands.” But when asked why the partnership is mentioned in the most recent report of the trustees, she said: “When we established in 2011 they helped us with ­delivering programmes into Somalia. “We do not use them now and won’t be doing so in the future.” Source:
  21. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout read from her latest best-selling novel, The Burgess Boys, at a recent Bowdoin event sponsored by the Blythe Bickel Edwards Fund and the English Department. Known for incorporating the unique flavor of her home state into her fiction, the Maine-born Strout is the author of numerous short stories and two other novels. In her newest work, Strout revisits the fictional Maine town of Shirley Falls, first introduced in a previous book. When Shirley Falls resident Susan Burgess finds out that that her son has been accused of a hate crime against the Somali population, she informs her brothers Jim and Bob, both New York City attorneys, who return to their small Maine hometown to help handle the crisis. The Burgess reunion on familiar soil rekindles long-buried familial tensions and reminders of the siblings’ traumatic childhood, testing their ability to cooperate amidst a new type of challenge. It took Strout seven years to write The Burgess Boys, largely due to her extensive research on the country of Somalia, its culture, and its civil war. “I found out all I could about Somali history,” Strout said. “I write about things that become absolutely compelling to me.” As part of Strout’s research she spoke with many Somalis in her college town of Lewiston, Maine. Today Maine is home to more than 6,000 Somali secondary immigrants. Strout noted that she started writing as a child, captivated by the idea of that stories provided a way to inhabit a different point of view. “I understood at a very young age that I would never know what it would be like to be another person,” she said. “I figured out that books brought me the closest.”
  22. Minneapolis is home to a large Somalian Muslim community. During the 2013 Mayoral race, most Somalian supported and voted for Elizabeth Betsy Hodges (born 1969), the DFL candidate who won the election and took Mayoral office in January 2014. Last week, Betsy created a storm when she addressed a group of Somali business owners and elders at a Somali mall in south Minneapolis while donning a beautiful dark blue Islamic headscarf (Hijab). Mayor was accompanied by her Somali liaision, Abdirahman Muse. The pro-Israel printed media and internet called her action as “submission to Shari’ah”. Some idiots even claimed that like Barack Obama, she too is working on the “Islamization” of America. Anti-Islam Jewish journalist, Tabitha Korol, in her column at Israeli Arutz Sheva(April 14, 2014) slammed Betsy for not doing her homework on how badly women were treated in the Middle East. To prove her allegation, she said that’s the reason the screening of ‘Honor Diaries’ film (funded by pro-Israel groups) is opposed by CAIR, a Muslim advocacy group. She also blamed Muslims for the JewishUniversity of Brandeis’ change of mind to award honorary Doctor’s degree to anti-Islam Somalian Israeli propagandist Ayaan Ali Hirsi. “Islamic law is concerned more with raping, beating, flogging, and stoning women than it is in honoring them,” claimed Korol. Had Korol done her Talmudic homework, she would have known that Jewish religion not only curses woman from birth to death, it also commands its male followers to thank G-d for not making them “a Gentile, a Woman or a Slave.” Furthermore, in Jewish religion women are forbidden to study Torah (OT), not mingle with the opposite sex and are not entitle to inheritance or have the right to divorce. Contrary to hatred against women in the Bible and Talmud, Holy Qur’an has two full chapters (al-Nisa and al-Maaryam) named after women. Furthermore, women are praised 173 times in Holy Qur’an as compared to 25 times the men. A Muslim woman can read and memorize Holy Qur’an; become an Islamic scholar and lead all woman daily prayers. She has the right to choose her husband and even divorce him for genuine reasons. She is also entitled for inheritance which she needs not share with her husband. “Perhaps she is a Lost Soul, one without direction, without ties to ethics or principles, unstable in today’s culture and society. Unwilling or unable to stand up for American ideologies, she too easily acquiesced to the preferences or demands of the archenemy of humankind,” said Korol to prove her Jewish racism and self-denial. Hodges has already hired people in her office to address issues she campaigned on, including a liaison to strengthen ties with the Somali community. In order to hide their racism, the anti-Betsy Jewish propagandists avoided to mention that Mayor’s husband, Gary Cunningham, is an Afro-American. And this was not the first time Betsy wore Hijab. She wore it as Councilwoman. “When I married my husband I became a grandmother to four beautiful kids, two of whom are African American boys in the Minneapolis public schools. I have worn hijab, and it changed me. I have run and danced my way through the gay pride parade. I have led prayer in an African American Baptist Church,” she said during her closing argument speech five days before the election. Betsy adores American Wonder Woman – from roller skates to coffee cup. The Wonder Woman – the crime fighting, whimsical Amazon princess renowned for her highly ethical character – is creation of William Moulton Marston, a WASP psychologist among the comic industry flooded with Jews.
  23. When the civil war in Somalia broke out more than 20 years ago, Jaylani Hussein and his family were among the first to move to the United States. Hussein has lived in the U.S. since 1993. He speaks English without any hint of an accent, holds two bachelor’s degrees, goes deer hunting in the fall and works for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. In 2008, Hussein returned to his birthplace, the city of Hargeisa, for the first time. “As I was landing in Hargeisa, I was thinking, ‘Oh my God. What have I gotten myself into?’” Hussein said. “When I was on the way home, I was thinking, ‘Why didn’t I come sooner?’” Just like Hussein, more Minnesotan Somalis are going back. An ongoing University of Minnesota research project from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs is collecting stories from immigrant Somalis in the Twin Cities to find out why. Though the number of people returning is “impossible to quantify,” signals such as airlines flying daily to the capital of Mogadishu or “chatter in the community about returning” can’t be ignored, said Ryan Allen, principal researcher and assistant community and economic development professor. Humphrey research consultant Kadra Abdi said other research has looked at the financial side of people returning, but they wanted to focus on the social aspect. Allen and his research team have so far completed about 60 oral interviews with Twin Cities residents who have returned to Somalia, most of whom were men in their late 20s or 60s. The researchers presented their findings last month in Washington, D.C., to the National Security Council and the State Department, among other stakeholders. Since the study is ongoing, the findings are currently preliminary. But Allen said he hopes to finish the data collection by the end of May. A report from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that more than 1 million Somali refugees are living around the world. Of those, about 10,000 have returned to Somalia. But the research at the University has found that those returning are usually not doing so permanently. “Some had no qualms about feeling at home in both Somalia and the Twin Cities,” Allen said. “They don’t want to move, but their culture is important to them and their families.” Whether it was due to feelings some Somalis have toward the U.S. or because some Americans distrust Somalis, Allen said, he’s found returners feel safer if they have as little to do with the U.S. government as possible. Allen said those returning might get a temporary job or internship in Somalia, or they come back because they’re concerned with security there. “It’s hard to say there’s a peace there,” said Hussein Ahmed, executive director of the West Bank Community Coalition. “These people might go to Kenya or Uganda first to make contacts in a safer place.” Or, as in Hussein’s case, the researchers found that returners worked on humanitarian projects. As a board member of American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa, Hussein helped set up schools, distribute food and improve infrastructure in northern Somalia and along the Ethiopian border. “Even regular people are going back,” Hussein said. “People who didn’t think they could make an impact found they could.” The researchers have mostly collected information from people beyond their early 20s. Mohamed Shire, president of the University’s Somali Student Association, said most young Somalis have no intention of going back to Somalia, though many will send money back to their families. It’s mainly the older generations that want to return to Somalia, he said. “There’s a huge difference in culture. The younger kids are American. It’s never occurred to them, going back,” Shire said. But Hussein said he sees it differently. “There’s the first wave of immigrants who’s lived the horror of Somalia,” Hussein said. “We, their children, were sheltered from it. They don’t see it as a place of hope. I look at Somalia as an opportunity.” The Somali-Americans who return to Somalia mostly work in the government or for nongovernmental organizations, Allen said. Many start businesses there. Some have run for office, and some even intend to run for president. “People who go back are highly engaged, both in the U.S. and Somalia,” Allen said. “They’re doing the same thing there. They care about Minnesota, but also about Somalia.” Abdi said those who return are in tune with both countries, and that shapes their dual identities. “A few years ago, some young men from Minneapolis returned to Somalia and joined [the terrorist group] al-Shabaab,” Abdi said. “That’s the narrative that’s stuck with most people. We want to provide a broader narrative and highlight the positive changes.” Source: Minnesota Daily
  24. The army is investigating reports that commanders charge soldiers money to second them for deployment with the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom). An Observer investigation has found that commanders of UPDF’s specialised units deployed around the country sell the Amisom slots to their charges for between Shs 500,000 and Shs 1 million. Soldiers who pass the initial selection from their units then face a second hurdle during specialised refresher training in preparation for deployment in Somalia. Military sources further told us that many of the soldiers have to part with more money along the chain, to ensure they are among those deemed fit for deployment to Amisom. Asked what the army was doing about this matter, the UPDF spokesman, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, said the military considered such actions criminal and would not hesitate to punish perpetrators if it gets conclusive evidence. Ankunda, however, said the UPDF had hitherto hit a dead-end in its investigations. The information that the UPDF has so far gleaned on the vice allegedly practised by its commanders can at best be described as rumours. “We have been investigating these rumours but nothing substantive has come out yet,” he said. Ankunda appealed to anyone with information about the sale of Amisom slots to provide it to the army. “For us [within the UPDF], that is criminal and whoever is involved, if there is incriminating evidence, they will be punished,” he said. Since the creation of Amisom in January 2007, the UPDF has sent different contingents of soldiers, known within military ranks as battle groups, to serve initially for six months. Subsequently, Amisom battle groups have served for 12 months at a time. Uganda was the first country to contribute troops to Amisom, a United Nations-sanctioned operation managed by the African Union. The UPDF has since provided the largest batch of soldiers to the peacekeeping mission. According to the Amisom website, the UPDF has 6,223 troops in Somalia, the largest among the five national contingents. Influence peddling According to various UPDF sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, members of each Amisom contingent are selected from the various units deployed in the different divisions around the country. The UPDF headquarters sends radio messages ordering commanders of the different specialised units in the respective divisions to submit names of soldiers who they recommend for deployment in Somalia. The specialised units reportedly include artillery, tanks, motorised and infantry (ground troops). “Each commander selects the soldiers according to the quota that his unit has been instructed to submit,” said a source. “Because people know that there are a lot of benefits of serving in Amisom, the commanders ask the soldiers to pay them if they want to go.” The selection process, at both the units and at the UPDF Peace Support Training School in Singo, where the army undertakes refresher training for its Somalia-bound troops, is also said to be characterised by influence peddling by senior figures in the military and in government. “There are people who go on merit and there are people who go because of paying cash or because of who they know,” said a source. Because of the irregular ways through which some soldiers secure opportunities to serve in Somalia, a number of deserving soldiers – who will have even performed to satisfaction during the refresher course – lose their slots to colleagues willing to cut corners. “You can do well in training and then they screen you and somebody tells you that you have high blood pressure. In the army, you can’t appeal. It means that if you don’t treat those people well, they will keep you out,” confessed a source. Ankunda said they were combing the army for leads that could help the army know who is responsible for the vice, albeit with little success so far. He, however, said there are no qualms that the army as an institution does not condone the practice. Big rewards Amisom has become a lucrative cash cow for UPDF soldiers, many of whom earn several times what they are paid back home. Each UPDF soldier deployed in Somalia earns a monthly allowance of $828 (about Shs 2 million) from the African Union. That allowance is separate from the monthly salaries that each soldier earns back home. However, compared to the Amisom allowance, the UPDF salaries are paltry. A private in the UPDF earns Shs 326,508. Amisom also compensates the families of Amisom soldiers who die in the line of duty, with $50,000 (about Shs 127.5 million). Soiled reputation From the start of Amisom, the UPDF has enjoyed worldwide acclaim for its role in helping to disintegrate the al-Shabab and pacify parts of the Somalia capital, Mogadishu. That reputation has, however, been injured lately by a series of self-inflicted shots to the collective foot of the UPDF. In 2012, three UPDF choppers en route to Somalia to bolster the Amisom ground troops crashed around Mt Kenya, killing at least two officers. President Museveni attributed the crashes to failures in operational command and sacked some of the UPDF Airforce commanders who were in charge of the mission. Last year, the army arrested Brig Michael Ondoga, the Uganda contingent commander, for alleged corruption. Brig Ondoga and several other senior officers are currently on trial at the UPDF General Court Martial in Kampala. The court martial has unearthed some of the sordid actions that UPDF commanders oversaw in Mogadishu, including stealing fuel, food and other UPDF supplies to sell to the al-Shabab fighters. A soldier also testified that UPDF instructors used Amisom facilities to train at least 10 al-Shabab fighters.
  25. The stowaway teenager who miraculously survived a five hour flight to Hawaii hidden in the wheel well of a Boeing 767 was falsely told by his own father that his mother was dead – and he discovered the truth two years ago, it was claimed today. Yahya Abdi – pictured here for the first time - ran away from the home he shares with his father, stepmother and siblings because he wanted to find his mom, who he has not seen since 2006. His mother Ubah Mohamed Abdullahi, 35, was left heartbroken when she split from her husband Abdulahi Abdi Yusef. Stowaway: This is Yahya Abdi, 15, the boy who stunned the world when he flew for more than five hours in the wheel well of a Boeing 767 from California to Hawaii on an apparent mission to visit his mother in Somalia He remarried a woman called Sainab Abdi and then left with Ubah’s three children to travel to the United States. But she is now in the process of immigrating to America and is determined to win her children back, exclusively telling MailOnline, ‘I need my children and they need me’. Speaking on the phone through a translator from the Sheed-dheer Refugee camp in Ethiopia, she explained how her ex-husband had told her children, Yahya, Yassir and Najma she was killed in a rocket attack in Mogadishu. Home: This is a picture of Yahya Abdi, (top right) then aged 10 in November 2008 in the Boli District of Ethiopia Apparently furious Yahya only found out she was still alive two years ago, through the local Somali community. The emotional mother said: ‘When they imigrated to the United they told the authorities I was dead. 'Then they later told my children I was killed in a rocket attack in Mogadishu. They killed me in my children’s minds. They violated me. ‘If I could give a message to my son I would say, I am still alive and I will come one day. Please stay calm and do not do anything stupid. ‘I am extremely worried about my son. The fact he did what he did shows he’s unhappy. I need a psychologist to help him and make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid and kill himself.’ She went on: ‘I have been so worried and upset since I heard the news, I have been crying and crying. I have not seen my children since 2006 and I miss them. ‘I am currently in the process of getting a sponsor to move to the United States. It is a long process, but I will come and I will get full custody of my children. ‘I want the American Government to look after them until I come because I do not believe they are safe with their father and their stepmother. She treats my children badly, she has her own children and she doesn’t care about mine. ‘Their rights have been violated and so have mine. I have no rights in Africa. They were taken away by force and I didn’t have anyone to help me. I need help to get them back. That is what I dream of.’ And in a stinging attack on her ex-husband, she added: ‘If I had the chance to speak to him I would say, ‘You didn’t think of their rights because of the negative emotions you have towards me. Amazing journey: Yahya Abdi, 15, sneaked into the wheel well of the Boeing 767 on Sunday and survived temperatures of -81F (-62C) during the five-and-a-half hour flight ‘You are supposed to protect them and put them first, but you didn’t do what was best for them. Now look what has happened.’ Ubah split from her husband in 2000 and after he remarried, she says he took her children away from her and then moved to the United States in about 2006. On Wednesday, Yahya’s father said Allah saved the boy as he spoke out for the first time. Abdilahi said he was shocked when Hawaiian authorities called him on Sunday to reveal they had found his son. Yahya was found on the tarmac in Maui after climbing into a plane at a San Jose airport and then likely passing out when it took off - surviving low oxygen levels and freezing temperatures. 'When I watched the analysis about the extraordinary and dangerous trip of my son on local TVs and that Allah had saved him, I thanked God and I was very happy,' the relieved father told VOA. 'He was always talking about going back to Africa, where his grandparents still live,' his father said, adding that the living conditions there did not make going back an option. A Santa Clara Police car drives past a house believed to be the home of a boy who stowed away in the wheel well of an airplane is seen on Wednesday, April 23, 2014 He added that his son did not receive a good education in Africa and has struggled while at school in the U.S. He said that these school problems appeared to be bothering him. Rebuke: Mukhtar Guleb, a cousin of Yahya¿s stepmother Sainab was critical of his mother's comments But another family member has criticized Abdilahi’s interview, stating that Yahya is actually a very clever young man. Mukhtar Guleb, a cousin of Yahya’s stepmother Sainab, has lived in the US for 17 years after moving from Somalia and he knows the family well. He said: ‘‘Yahya is very clever. Where he came from in Somalia there were no schools, but he is still a clever boy. 'Maybe his grades suffered a bit in the last year or so because he was unhappy at home, but that is all. ‘He thought his mother was dead and only found out she was alive two years ago. He was incredibly unhappy and very angry with his father. ‘He is a young boy, so he took the action he did. When you are a teenager you have incredible drive. ‘He will have no real concept of the size of the world and the size of Africa. He would have simply thought, ‘If I can get on a plane, I can get out in Africa and ask people where my mother is’. He was prepared to die to find her.’ He also went on to say his cousin Sainab treated Yahya badly, showing huge favouritism towards her own biological children. He said: ‘She always shouts at Yahya, They really don’t get on. She thinks her own children are little kings and queens, but that is not the way she treats Yahya, Yassir and Najma. Miraculous: The boy, identified by his father as Yahya Abdi, is pictured after he was found on the tarmac in Maui on Sunday. He ran away in an attempt to reunite with his mother, who lives in Somalia ‘They definitely get a bad deal from her. I do not think she is a nice person at all. And it seems Abdulahi does nothing to stop her. ‘I have heard Yahya ask his father to do something, but he doesn’t. I think he is irresponsible. He didn’t realise his own son was missing for 36 hours, that is not good. I believe he cares more about his wife than his children. He cannot control her.’ Finally he added: ‘This is a bad situation and there are only two options. Either he stays with dad and stepmother or the state look after him. I think the second option is best because he will be properly looked after. Then, if and when his mother arrives in America she can take her children back.’ Following his ordeal, the teenager is ‘resting comfortably’ at a hospital in Hawaii, spokeswoman Kayla Rosenfeld of the state's Department of Human Services said in a statement. The young Santa Clara resident is in the custody of the department's Child Welfare Services division, and officials were working to ensure his safe return to California, she said. The teen's friends at Santa Clara High School were stunned to learn of his death-defying adventure. Hiding place: This shows where the teenager stowed away on the Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 767 ‘He was kind of shy,’ Emanuael Golla told KGO-TV. ‘He really didn't speak that much. But we were all surprised about what happened. We didn't really think it was him, but we're happy to know that he's all right.’ The boy enrolled in Santa Clara High only a few months ago, after leaving nearby Oak Grove High School. On Tuesday, it emerged that the 15-year-old runaway allegedly spent up to six hours undetected at Mineta San Jose International Airport after scaling a fence at around 1am. In San Jose, airport officials said they were reviewing how the boy slipped through security that includes video surveillance, German shepherds and Segway-riding police officers. After taking off around 8am, the Hawaiian Airlines jet landed in Maui at 10.30am (local time) and he eventually stumbled out of his hiding place an hour later. On Tuesday MailOnline revealed that he actually left his family home on Friday night, meaning he was missing for around 36 hours by the time he was found on the tarmac at Maui airport. Despite his lengthy absence, Santa Clara police have confirmed his family did not file a missing persons report. Home: The teen lived with his father and stepmother at this Santa Clara home - but vanished on Friday Breach: The boy scrambled over a fence at Mineta San Jose International Airport in the dark, crossed a tarmac and climbed into a jetliner's wheel well Manager: This is Marvin Moniz, the Maui District Airport manager responsible for Kahului Airport According to Maui airport manager Marvin Moniz, the boy did not want to go home to his father. 'He told us that he wanted to go and live with his mother,' he explained to MailOnline. 'He said he missed her. 'It was clear from talking to him that he was not happy and he did not want to return home. He did not get on with his stepmother and did not like living with her. He was a teenager who was upset and he was not ready to go back.’ Explaining the events leading up to Yahya’s miraculous journey, Mr Omiz said: ‘The boy told us that he lived with his father and his stepmother, who he did not get on with. They had an argument on Friday. I do not know what it was about, but it made him decide to run away. ‘He left on Friday evening and spent the night somewhere. Then he said he walked to the airport. As far as I know he hopped the fence at about 9pm (Hawaii time) and then ran to a plane and hid. Mr Moniz went on: 'When we found him he was very disorientated and weak. We gave him some teriyaki meatballs, rice and salad to give him some strength. How he did it: It is believed the teen went into some sort of 'hibernation' to be able to survive the extreme conditions 'He spoke perfect English and didn’t really have an accent, so I assume he had been in the US for a long time. 'He seemed OK physically. The only thing he complained about was that his ears hurt. He said all the noise and the vibrations had given him a really bad ringing in his ears.' The incredible story has been met with disbelief by all those who know the teenager and his family. Neighbour Amy McGinn told KTVU: 'They are very quiet, very private. When I heard there was an argument, that was surprising, because I never hear anything, like loud noises from the house.' McGinn added that the boy's father drives a taxi, while the stepmother is mostly seen taking her children to and from school Airport confirms report of stowaway aboard flight It was not immediately clear how the boy stayed alive in the unpressurized space, where temperatures at cruising altitude can fall well below zero and the air is too thin for humans to stay conscious. An FAA study of stowaways found that some survive by going into a hibernation-like state. The FAA says 105 stowaways have sneaked aboard 94 flights worldwide since 1947, and about one out of four survived. But agency studies say the actual numbers are probably higher, as some survivors may have escaped unnoticed, and bodies could fall into the ocean undetected. SOURCE: