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  1. WASHINGTON (AP) — The top United Nations envoy to Somalia warned Tuesday that the U.N. and other foreign diplomats may have to withdraw from the war-ravaged nation if they continue to be attacked. U.N. Special Representative Nicholas Kay said attacks that cause "significant losses" would likely force international officials to leave or, at least, pare down their missions in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. "I am deeply conscious that if we make a mistake in our security presence and posture, and suffer a significant attack, particularly on the U.N., this is likely to mean to us withdrawing from Somalia," Kay said at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington. "There are scenarios in which if we take further significant losses, then that would have a strategic effect on our mission," Kay said. Western diplomats began increasing ties with Mogadishu after Somali civil activist Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected president in September 2012. At the time, the West cautiously predicted improvements in Somalia's security, given the expected stability Mohamud's government would bring to the failed state and the ouster of militant network al-Shabab from Mogadishu the year earlier. But al-Shabab has continued its drumbeat of deadly attacks against diplomats, aid workers and the Somali government. On Tuesday, two al-Shabab gunmen killed a Somali legislator as he left his home in Mogadishu, marking the second fatal attack on a member of parliament in as many days. Earlier this month, a gunman at an airport in Somalia's Puntland region shot and killed two consultants working for the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. And in June 2013, the U.N. compound in Mogadishu was the scene of a deadly suicide attack staged by al-Shabab, which has called the U.N. "a merchant of death" in Somalia. The violence has slowed U.S. enthusiasm for stepping up its Somali mission, which is currently based in neighboring Kenya due to the security threats. It's unlikely that the U.S. will establish an embassy in Mogadishu for at least another several years. A handful of counties — including Great Britain, Turkey, Sudan, Libya and Yemen — have embassies in Mogadishu. The European Union also has an office there. As recently as last week, officials announced the deployment of about 400 Ugandan troops to Somalia under a new United Nations guard unit charged with protecting U.N. staff and installations. It's part of an effort that Kay described Tuesday as the U.N. re-bolstering its presence in Mogadishu after pulling back to Kenya following last June's attack on its compound. "We have to measure our presence," Kay said, adding that he has encouraged more U.N. member states to open or expand programs in Somalia. However, he described a perilous balance between "believing that it is right that we should be there" and facing the risk of doing so. "I'm also deeply conscious there are risks," Kay said. "And if we got hit very badly, it might have an impact."
  2. (CNN) -- A 15-year-old boy who survived a flight from California to Hawaii by hitching a ride in the plane's wheel well said he was trying to get to Somalia to see his mother, a law enforcement official told CNN on Tuesday. He remains in a hospital in Hawaii, Kayla Rosenfeld, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Human Services, said Tuesday afternoon. The teen, who has not yet been identified, spent more than six hours on the ground before the Maui-bound jet took off, another government official says. The boy jumped an airport fence in San Jose, California, shortly after 1 a.m. on Sunday, hours before Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45 took off at 7:55 a.m., the official said. The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, didn't know when the teen climbed into the wheel well, but said the plane already was at the airport at 1 a.m. Investigators say they don't think the teen knew where the plane was heading and just went to the nearest aircraft. Teen stowaway raises questions about airport security Authorities said the boy came out of the wheel well of the Boeing 767 about an hour after it landed at the Kahului Airport on the island of Maui. He is in the custody of child welfare services workers, said Kayla Rosenfeld, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Human Services. The teen told authorities he was from Santa Clara, California, and ran away from home on Sunday, FBI Special Agent Tom Simon said. Emanuael Golla, a senior at Santa Clara High School who told CNN he had met the boy but isn't good friends with him, described him as extremely shy and quiet and said he had just transferred to the school within the past few weeks. The boy told authorities that he crawled into the wheel well and lost consciousness when the plane took off. He survived the nearly five-hour flight in subzero temperatures at oxygen-depleted heights -- as high as 38,000 feet -- against the odds, authorities believe. Since 1947, 105 people are known to have attempted to fly inside wheel wells on 94 flights worldwide, the Federal Aviation Administration's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute says. Of those, 25 made it through, including a 9-year-old -- a survival rate of 24%. One of the flights went as high as 39,000 feet. Two others were at 38,000 feet. The conditions at high altitudes can put stowaways in a virtual "hibernative" state, the FAA said. 5 stowaway attempts that didn't end tragically CNN's Mayra Cuevas contributed to this report.
  3. An experience of the worst in humanity was not what Ibrahim Mohamed Hussein expected when he touched down in Hong Kong eight months ago, fresh from persecution in Africa. On his flight to the city, the Somali journalist was clutching desperately at a remote hope of seeking asylum protection. Now Hussein, 36, just wants to return to his war-torn homeland in two weeks. A man hardened by life-threatening risks reporting on the front lines of East Africa, he has chosen not to put up with any further "destitution" in the city he had once hoped to call home. "I begged [for Hong Kong] to let me become a refugee," the former director with Somali broadcaster Universal TV says. "But it's not easy here. I've tried going two days without eating anything. "If I will starve to death here, I would rather go back to Somalia and die at home." Hussein has already cheated death once - after he was kidnapped by Islamist insurgents in Somalia's capital Mogadishu in 2009. Only a last-minute phone call to relatives secured his release with an US$18,000 ransom. He later escaped to Uganda and then to Kenya, joining an exodus of African journalists from their home countries fleeing violence and intimidation, which was identified in a report by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. "You know Mogadishu? They call it the most dangerous place in the world," he says. The capital was seized by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militia in 2009. "Some of the people I worked with are no longer alive, or are missing," he adds, pointing to a photograph of his old news crew. But eights months of squalor at slum-like accommodation in Hong Kong was not the life he had anticipated, either. On his return to Somalia, Hussein says he will face the threat of death. "I am scared for my life. But I have no options." Like many of the 4,700 asylum seekers in the city, Hussein has been living on a fixed amount of food and a measly government allowance of HK$1,500 a month for accommodation. "Do you know what it is like to live like this? Not even being able to get a cup of tea? Not being able to work?" he asks, referring to a February ruling by the city's top court upholding a government ban on allowing refugees to work. Cosmo Beatson, executive director of refugee rights group Vision First, says: "Protection without being given economic rights is not protection but an illusion. Protection means giving someone their life back, not making it worse." Beatson says the government should rescind its agreement to the UN Convention Against Torture if it is not planning on accepting asylum seekers. Hong Kong is a signatory to that convention, but not the UN Refugee Convention. "From 1992 to 2013, the government has received 13,000 torture claims but approved only 11," he says. Many pack up and leave when they cannot put up with the wait of, in some cases, more than 10 years to be granted asylum as their passports will expire, rendering them stateless and unable to travel, he says. "There's no way back and no way forward for them. There's only dismay." The Social Welfare Department says it monitors the assistance level to claimants and will make adjustments as necessary.
  5. Last week, I could only watch on television news as soldiers herded scores of my countrymen on to trucks like livestock, to be driven to detention centers. Women carrying babies struggled to climb onto the cumbersome vehicles, built not for carrying humans but cargo and commodities. Soldiers "helped" some of the women along, grabbing their behinds and pushing them upward, stripping them of their last shreds of dignity. The scenes came after the Kenyan government ordered all urban-based Somali refugees in the country to move into designated camps. On televisions and computers all over the world, Somalis watched this scene, tears streaming down their faces in disappointment, anger and resentment for how their kin were being treated by their neighbors. Somalia has become a scapegoat in the eyes of Kenya's government, which has so swiftly decided to renege on the international conventions guaranteeing the rights of refugees. The Kenyan government has suggested that it is the Somali refugees who have threatened the security of the country in which they have sought sanctuary, pressuring those Somalis who left their homes for the promise of safety to return to violent areas of active armed conflict. Somalia was not always the hotbed of corruption and violence it is today. In fact, it was once quite the opposite, a place where liberation movement leaders in the region sought refuge and were given support, and even diplomatic Somali passports. However, the country has been gradually worn down in land exchanges and divisions that awarded control to every party in question, except Somalis themselves. Indeed, the Kenyan lands that so many Somalis are now being forced to leave -- the Northern Frontier District (NFD) -- were annexed by Kenya into its own borders in the '60s, despite the overwhelming desire expressed by the region's population to join the newly-formed Somali republic. During the two decades of Somalia's absence from the international arena, Nairobi has become the de facto capital of Somalia -- the one where the profits and benefits of Somali's hard work and of Somalia's instability are realized. Somali businesspeople injected millions of dollars of investments into Kenya's economy. Almost all non-governmental organizations with operations in Somalia were run from Nairobi-based regional offices. Additionally, export of khat to the unregulated market in Somalia generates about $300 million for Kenyans. Kenyan profiteering is, however, not limited to legal avenues. A recent confidential report by UN monitors accused Kenyan soldiers in the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia of facilitating illegal charcoal exports from the port city of Kismayu. This trade, banned by the UN in 2012, is known to generate millions of dollars a year for Al Shabaab, the Islamic militant group that has been fighting for control of Somalia for years. Kenyans have identified this same group as a major security threat, and cited its presence as a reason for pushing out the Somalis living within Kenyan borders. If such accusations of corruption prove correct, the Kenyan government is not only empowering the very extremists they claim to be worried about, but they are diverting precious resources from Somalia for the sake of their own greed. Kenya has continued on this path, lobbying to gain control of Somalia's oil-rich waters, an effort that failed in 2009 but continues today. While many find it easy to blame the people of Somali for their own radicalisation, there is little proof for such assumptions and indeed evidence to the contrary. For example, both Puntland and Somaliland (the former still part of the country while the latter withdrew from its union with Somalia in 1991) have embraced peace and averted war among their communities, despite the international community giving neither diplomatic recognition. By contrast, the rest of Somalia has been torn apart, pillaged and exploited. Today, Somalis find themselves homeless. They have run from a fractured country in conflict but have found themselves unwelcome in the nation in which they have long sought refuge, through a campaign that has targeted Kenyan Somalis as well. Kenya's Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said, "any refugee found flouting this directive will be dealt with in accordance with the law." But what law is this? By international law, what Kenya is proposing is illegal. After years of housing Somalis, who, by historical accounts, belong in Kenya just as much as the native Kenyans themselves, they have been ordered to go. Some will say that it is the right of the Kenyan people to protect themselves from extremism. That the threats they are facing are real and increasing, and they must address them. But Kenya has no legs on which to stand in this debate. It has provoked and supported the very threats it claims to fight against, leaching Somalis for every benefit they can provide and then discarding them in the cruelest possible ways. Extremism has become a smokescreen Kenya employs to distract the international arena from its own abuses and shortcomings. Watching the refugees being removed, I saw a young boy looking out from the back of one of the trucks. I could see the terror and fright of what was happening drawn all over his face as he looked back upon the armed soldiers and their loaded rifles. Sadly for a child so young, he will remember this moment more clearly than any joy he has ever felt, and sadly for the world, it will inform and shape his future outlook. The fear he feels today will be the hatred he nurses tomorrow, and when he expresses his seemingly irrational desire for revenge, we will blame him for his own abuse and neglect. I can see the cycle continuing, the fear bubbling up as these refugees fight feelings of worthlessness and powerlessness. I know where Somali youth will turn when they run out of options, and I hope that before then, we will realize where the greater portion of the blame lies and hold ourselves accountable for the part we have played in orphaning an entire nation. Hibaaq Osman Somali-born Hibaaq Osman has lived in Cairo since 2005. A global political strategist, she leads three regional non-governmental organizations: Karama, the Dignity Fund and the ThinkTank for Arab Women. She serves on the boards of a number of organizations, including Ashoka Arab World, and is a member of the Expert Committee for Peace and Secuirty at the League of Arab States.
  6. Somalia’s first terrestrial fiber optic cables have connected the country to the modern internet. The BBC reported that Somalis have been in “culture shock” ever since. “They’re very excited about the speed,” a spokesman from Somalia Wireless, an internet service provider (ISP), told the BBC, which reports that: People have been flocking to hotels and internet cafes to try out the fast service – some seeing video platforms like YouTube and social networking sites for the first time, our correspondent says. Until recently, internet connectivity in Somalia came exclusively through dial-up modems and satellite. Then, in the last couple of weeks, internet providers rolled out fiber optic connections in nation’s capitol, Mogadishu. The cables run though Somalia’s neighbor, Kenya, which hooked up the first of four undersea cables in 2009. What does this cataclysmic cultural shift in Somalia look like to the rest of the world? In the gigantic, rushing river of the internet, it turns out that a new country coming online is a trickle that barely registers. What happens when a country of 10 million joins the world Somalia, battered by civil war, divided into breakaway states, and subject to an internet ban by the Al-Shabab, could certainly do with a way to reliably connect with the outside world. The difference such connectivity can make to its people isn’t just a feel-good story peddled by the Western press. In Kenya, high-speed internet had a transformative effect: prices for internet connections plummeted, speeds increased, and Kenya started developing a tech and start-up industry of its own. It is now the East Africa headquarters of several big firms, and is producing homegrown tech products for the outside world. But viewed from afar in terms of internet use, Somalia’s recent connections seem to have had little immediate impact. A look at the traffic flowing from Somalia via Akamai, an internet infrastructure firm that delivers between 15% and a third of the world’s internet traffic, shows that not much has changed in the last few weeks: Internet traffic from Somalia flowing through Akamai’s servers in the past month. Akamai Akamai declined to disclose specific numbers (hence the blank y-axis on the chart above). Another proxy for looking at whether people are using the internet more is through DNS requests. The web is made of human-readable addresses, such as But for machines to understand where to direct you, they need to translate that to a computer-readable numerical address through the “domain name system.” This is generally done by internet service providers, but individuals and ISPs alike often use a third-party service such as Google or OpenDNS. Here’s what OpenDNS saw from Somalia over the past six months: Again, there’s not much difference over the past week or two and no recent spikes. So is the BBC’s man in Mogadishu chewing too much khat? Probably not. With a country making its first tentative steps online, anecdotal evidence can sometimes paint a truer picture than big data. As the BBC points out, fiber optic connections are up and running only in Mogadishu, home to about 13% of Somalia’s population. Moreover, Somalia’s contribution to the world’s internet traffic is minuscule, so it takes some close examination of worldwide data to build a picture of its habits. At Quartz’s request, Martin Levy from Cloudflare, another big back-end service provider, examined his company’s numbers. Somalia accounts for only 0.0003% of Cloudflare’s traffic, Levy said. But, he added: We just looked at the graphs for Somalia traffic and while the transfer levels are very low (and hence there’s a lot of noise on the graphs) there looks like a definite up-tick over the last week… It took a lot of squinting by a few engineers to accept the fact that it’s showing improvement week-over-week. The last week may have felt like a sea-change in Mogadishu, but it isn’t just the new fiber optic cables that have made a difference in Somalis’ internet experience. According to Akamai’s Belson, “Over the last year, our peak traffic levels for content delivered into Somalia were up 2.14x, while our average traffic levels for content delivered into Somalia were up 2.86x…Looking at some neighboring countries, as well as the US, for comparison, it appears that these growth rates are higher than these other countries.” Somalia peak traffic and average traffic to Akamai’s servers. Akamai As more internet providers join up to the new, faster connections, that growth will only accelerate. And with decent connectivity, perhaps Somalia, like Kenya, will soon be able to sprout new businesses to enrich its population. Source:
  7. EARLIER this month Brandeis University rescinded its offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born women’s rights activist, saying its officials had not been fully aware of some her more scathing remarks on Islam. Conservatives have accused Brandeis of muzzling Ms Hirsi Ali and bowing to Muslim pressure groups. Liberals have wondered how the university could possibly have overlooked Ms Hirsi Ali’s condemnations, not just of radical Islam, but of Islam as such. At the risk of coming off as a postmodern multi-culti squish, it seems to me that this discussion suffers from a lack of cultural context—but not the cultural context you’re thinking of. The way Ms Hirsi Ali talks about Islam strikes American liberals as strangely intolerant, but it has its roots in the prevailing discourse on religious freedom and Islam in the country where Ms Hirsi Ali first began seriously tackling these issues: the Netherlands. As Ms Hirsi Ali noted in an interview on Fox News, the most-cited of her objectionable statements on Islam came in a 2007 interview with Reason magazine. In that interview she said it was necessary to “defeat” Islam and that ”we are at war with Islam”, including in the military sense of the word. In another 2007 interview, with the London Evening Standard, she called Islam “the new fascism” and “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death”. Characterising an entire religion in this way is considered entirely beyond the pale in educated American society; while some small right-wing or evangelical Christian organisations demonise Islam as an enemy, mainstream conservatives, and for that matter neoconservatives, characterise only radical Islam as a threat. Actually, bigotry against Muslims in America is common enough, but the public expression of such prejudice by figures of authority is taboo. Wholesale condemnations of existing religions just aren’t done in American politics. Once-open prejudices against Catholics and Jews were gradually wrung out of the public sphere in a process that started in the 1940s and was essentially wrapped up by the 1970s. The explicit consensus in America is ecumenical and strongly pro-religious, and Americans generally sense that when they single out one faith and aggressively criticise its spiritual content, they’re violating a national ethical code. This is not quite the case in the Netherlands, where Ms Hirsi Ali developed her feminist critique of Islam and served as an MP for the centre-right Liberal party. To recap her story: Ms Hirsi Ali came to the Netherlands in 1992, fleeing an arranged marriage in Kenya. She was granted refugee status and ultimately a Dutch passport, and earned a master’s degree that led her into outreach work with Muslim immigrant women, initially in affiliation with the Labour party. Her politics shifted steadily rightward, due in part to the repression of women she saw in immigrant communities and in part to the September 11th attacks. In 2004 she made a deliberately provocative, rather surreal short film decrying Muslim oppression of women with the bomb-throwing TV director and personality Theo van Gogh; in response, a young Muslim extremist murdered Mr van Gogh. With her extraordinary charisma and impressively elegant Dutch, Ms Hirsi Ali was ultimately invited to run for parliament by the centre-right Liberals, and served from 2003 until 2006, when a scandal over her immigration status (she admitted to having concealed her name and lied about other details) led the hard-line interior minister to revoke her Dutch passport. She moved to America shortly thereafter, taking a job at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. (The affair, incidentally, precipitated the fall of the Dutch government.) Returning to the theme: while the way Ms Hirsi Ali talks about Islam sounds extreme to the American ear, it doesn’t sound as extreme to the Dutch ear. To take the most obvious example, Geert Wilders, the leader of the far-right Party for Freedom (PVV), has been calling for banning the Koran since 2007. To legitimate this sort of language, Mr Wilders has advanced the novel claim that Islam is not a religion at all, but a totalitarian ideology. Of course, Mr Wilders leads the farthest-right party in the Dutch political landscape, one with which most Dutch parties have refused to cooperate. Nevertheless, most Dutch citizens don't see Mr Wilders’ PVV as an extreme-right party. This is incomprehensible to Americans: a party that calls for banning the Koran and terms Islam a totalitarian ideology seems by definition extreme-right in an American context. Yet intelligent, tolerant mainstream Dutch and Americans can go back and forth on this question in utter bafflement. And Mr Wilders doesn’t exist in a vacuum. He launched the PVV in 2006, after dropping out of the Liberal party just when Ms Hirsi Ali was becoming one of its biggest stars. A few years earlier, Pim Fortuyn, the flamboyantly gay populist politician, had blazed the trail for such language by terming Islam a “backward religion”. Beginning with Mr Fortuyn’s rise in 2001, Dutch politics was seized by an impulse to cast off “politically correct” taboos on negative characterisations of (mainly Muslim) immigrants, and to “name the real problems” of crime, failure to integrate, and suppression of the rights of women and gays among immigrant communities. Ms Hirsi Ali’s sharp anti-Muslim language did not spring out of nowhere; she was part of this broader shift in Dutch politics and political language. At a deeper level, while the Netherlands has long been renowned for, or even defined by, its religious tolerance, the Dutch variety of tolerance is not the same as the American one. For example, I’ve repeatedly encountered non-religious Dutch who see no difference between a religion and a belief or opinion, and feel that religions therefore don’t deserve any kind of special consideration, be it in terms of schooling, of exemptions from public rules and duties, or of conversational deference or respect. That view may be shared in certain emphatically atheist quarters in America, but it seems much more widespread in the Netherlands. To some extent this may be rooted in the much lower level of Dutch religiosity; 21% of Dutch believe in God, against 61% of Americans, and Dutch religiosity declined markedly from 1991-2008. And while Americans who do not actually go to church often nevertheless identify with some denomination on a family basis, Dutch who do not believe or worship tend to describe themselves simply as having no religion. One sometimes gets the sense that non-religious Dutch are so alienated from religious tradition that they lack empathetic understanding of what belonging to a faith is like. But then, the bargains entailed in the Dutch tradition of religious tolerance have always worked differently than those in America. From the late 19th century to the 1960s, the Dutch hewed to a social system called “pillarisation”, in which the country’s Protestant and Catholic communities lived, studied and voted in largely segregated blocs, each with their own schools, newspapers, and political parties. The socialist movement formed a third, non-religious bloc. The blocs were often openly disdainful of each other, and it’s not surprising that the Dutch tend to be more willing than Americans to bluntly criticise the substance of others’ religions, just as they might criticise a political ideology. Even in the 17th century, when the Netherlands became a haven for religious refugees from the 30 Years’ War and the Inquisition, tolerance was largely seen as a pragmatic virtue, good for business, so long as those with alien faiths kept their houses of worship out of sight. One might look even further back: many of the Netherlands’ firmest critics of religion belong to the country’s strong Humanist movement, which traces its roots to the atheistic or pan-theistic philosophy of that greatest apostate of Amsterdam’s Jewish community, Baruch Spinoza. The intellectual historian Jonathan Israel makes Spinoza the model for what he terms the “radical” wing of the European Enlightenment, which totally rejected religious authority, in contrast to more moderate figures such as Descartes; and one can hear some echoes of Spinoza in Ms Hirsi Ali’s uncompromising turn away from, and finally complete rejection of, her native Islam. The interview in which Ms Hirsi Ali called for a “war” on Islam came in 2007, just a year after she had left the Netherlands. In deciding to rescind its offer of an honorary degree to her, Brandeis was in part drawing a line between the kind of discourse on religion that is acceptable in mainstream American intellectual life, and the kind that has arisen over the past decade and a half in the Netherlands. The university was not silencing Ms Hirsi Ali; it still invited her to come to the university to “engage in a dialogue”. As Isaac Chotiner puts it, the “controversy isn't about shunning someone from polite society. It is about giving a person an honorary degree.” Asking Ms Hirsi Ali to speak to students at Brandeis is a great idea; giving her an honorary degree as part of graduation ceremonies suggests that Brandeis thinks calling for a war on Islam is an acceptable statement within the bounds of normal political and social discourse. The fact that such statements are not welcomed in American public discourse is one reason why the American model of integration and tolerance works better than the Dutch model, and why the Netherlands continues to be wracked by tensions over Islam and integration—years after those tensions forced Ms Hirsi Ali herself to leave.
  8. "The Al Shabaab might gun you down!” “Those guys are not simple; they just attacked Mogadishu state house the other day …You can’t be safe!” But even with all these reactions from my family and friends, something was telling me, “Go, Carol.” And so, I simply packed my bags and left. I would travel along with other female reporters and the army. I didn’t even realise how I dozed off, for we would be landing three hours later. The writer in the war zone at Mogadishu As soon as we reached the UPDF Base Unit in Mogadishu, we were welcomed by the arrest of three frail looking Al Shabaab suspects. A few hours before, they had shot at a UPDF convoy just 4kms south of Mogadishu. They looked hungry and withered. Why would a person who looks so frail and malnourished even dare blowing up anyone? What was their motive? “That is the nature of al Shabaab,” Paddy Ankunda, the UPDF spokesperson stated, “If you look at the people who often plant explosives, you would marvel.” Although we were residing in the fully guarded AU/UN support information unit in Somalia, I knew anything was likely to happen. Alshabaab suspects who were arrested recently “The al shabaab entered Somalia’s state house …” my friend’s voice kept playing in my head. Maybe if they attacked, I would hide under the bed? Or inside the cabin? Or cover myself up in a blanket? The next day, I was told to dress up like a real Somali not to raise suspicion – a head scarf, and a lesu to conceal my jeans. We would be driving around Mogadishu city centre in armoured vehicles. For a start, all I could see was a sea of sand, vandalized buildings, women and children loitering around the lonely streets. There was something sombre about the whole street. Mogadishu Air port Moving further into the town, I started to see small shops here and there. When we stopped to take a few pictures, the shop proprietors quickly run inside their shops to hide their faces. “They are scared,” a UPDF soldier told us,” They don’t know who an enemy is.” But there was something peculiar about them, he explained. “If there is an explosion nearby, they don’t run away or even go to see what has happened. They stay at their businesses. It shows you how much they have been hardened by the decades of war.” We later learnt that the local Somalis trust the AMISOM soldiers more than their own local police force. The government of Somalia has a divided army and heaven knows what would happen next if AMISOM withdrew forces today. We drove further on the main street; I was surprised to find cars moving about normally and businesses buzzing in the city centre. Checking point at Mogadish “Two years ago, there was nothing in this place, except gunshot s,” Ankunda noted. “Mogadishu is relatively safe.” The only peculiar thing was that motorists didn’t follow the traffic rules. Anyone seemed to be in urgency to park anytime and anywhere they wanted to without caring to see if anyone was following in a distance. I don’t know how many times our armored vehicle had to instantly break to save the careless drivers. On closer look I noticed that most of the motor vehicles on the street were in a bad state; they are rusty and ram shackled – a constant reminder of the war. But somehow, they move. Woman doing business in Mogadishu Shebelle River After more than an hour of driving, we were finally at the lower Shebelle River in Somalia. I couldn’t believe I was seeing greenery here, and extensive fruit farms. I even saw acres and acres of matooke. Although this area was not affected by the war, the farmers were under tension. Paddy Ankunda, the UPDF spokesperson Just a few days before, someone had been killed as he drove back home, after delivering his fruit harvest to the city market. “We beg the Al Shabaab not to kill us, because we have no political interests. We only cultivate food,” one farmer told us. Still, businesses and farming activities close at 4:00pm. Beyond that, you can’t be sure. The next day, we were supposed to visit the Lido beach (yes, it’s named after Kampala’s Lido beach on Lake Victoria because of UPDF influence). But that day, there was a threat from the Al Shabaab and security advised us otherwise. “We are doing heavy patrol in the city. Because there are suicide bombings and explosives here and there,” said Brig Dick Prit Olum, the Uganda contingent commander. Sea port Next, we visited the sea port, Mogadishu’s entry point for supplies. Under the UPDF Commander Isaac Nuwa, Uganda’s troops are ably controlling it. “Over 300 trucks bring in food and other logistics daily,” Muwa told us. But things are not as normal as they looked on the surface. Some of the Somalis, especially the old women, simply didn’t want to be checked by the AMISOM. Night patrol in Somalia They mumble inaudible words “Some of them look at us as interference. There is also a language barrier. Many of them neither speak English nor Swahili we rely on interpreters, who may not be genuine,” noted the Sea Port Commander, Isaac Muwa. Muwa, however, noted that strangely, some Somalis were beginning to speak Luganda, thanks to the influence of the soldiers. Presidential Palace Next, was visiting State House, otherwise known as the Presidential Palace. We felt at home finding the UPDF soldiers all over the place. I was itching to know how the Al shabaab managed to sneak into this heavily guarded state house. Meeting President Hassan Sheikh wasn’t difficult. In fact, we only waited for less than five minutes. The incident happened on 21st February at about 12.30 pm, he told recounted. “The Al shabaab made three successive activities. First there was a car explosive in which a suicide bomber died some 100 meters away from the presidential palace. This was meant to disorganize state house security and ensure a time lapse. Immediately after the first explosion, a second car nearby also exploded. It also had a suicide bomber. Nine al shabaab people then climbed over from a different side. Eight of them were instantly killed and one who survived is under detention for interrogation,” Muhammed narrated. AMISOM soldiers on Somalia streets Security told us that the attack lasted about ten minutes after the UPDF engaged them. "They (UPDF) were vigilant. The nature of the threat is that the terrorists are within society every day. Security added that their target was to hit the Somalia president as he walked out to go for prayers at a mosque within the presidential palace compound. They used the back wall fence of the palace and jumped inside immediately after the explosions. They thought that that all the security had rushed to look at the car explosions. Commander Olum also suspected that there might have been informers of the Al shabaab among the local police. “We are trying to mentor the local police forces so that when AMISOM withdraws from Somalia one day, they have where to start. But unfortunately, we don’t know who is genuine and who is not. This is a big lesson for us,” Olum said. Sea marine The UPDF patrols the sea 24/7 for possible pirates. They have submachines around their speedboats. On our fourth day, would join the patrol. Initially I hesitated, but later I decided, what if I miss a good story? As we drove towards the sea, we heard gunshots. My heart skipped and I covered my head, fearing for the worst. Thehn in an instant, the soldiers were speaking and laughing in their radio calls. “No, it is not the Al shabaab, it is our people doing training.” Ah, I sighed with relief and headed for the AMISOM patrol speed boat. Minutes offshore, I was already panicking. The speed at which they patrol is something I can’t explain. The ocean was changing tide. I closed my eyes and clung to my seat like my whole life depended on it. It was the fear of either drowning or being gunned down by the Al Shabaab on the sea – like my friend had said. But, well I didn’t. Mogadishu is relatively safe. But you still have to watch over your shoulder. Side bar: we are not here for picnic – UPDF AMISOM has about 21, 586 soldiers in Somalia of which over 6,000 are from Uganda. Other troops are from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia who are deployed in six sectors covering south and central Somalia. Ugandan troops are particularly deployed the regions of Banadir, and Lower Shabelle. The troops are putting up a spirited fight against the Alshabaab strongholds in Southern Somalia. “We have recovered over 50 % of the former Al shabaab strongholds. We are not here for a picnic, we are going to capture Southern Somalia and get rid of them,” says Commander Olum
  9. D Daniel Njuguna Wanyoike, 28, is a broken man. Drooping shoulders, downward gaze and the hands clutched between his knees tell of a man emotionally disturbed. He was kidnapped on October 5, 2011, by the terrorist group, Al-Shabaab, inside Somalia as he delivered medicine. Even six days after his rescue, he has difficulty talking about the cruelty of captivity where he and his fellow hostage expected to be killed any time by their captors. He has been in captivity for two-and-half years and along the way, he converted to Islam and took the name Abdurahman in order to survive. Basics like food were an issue; he was sustained by two meals of pasta every day. “My mind is numb, the pain is still strong,” he told the Nation Tuesday. Throughout the interview, he sat pensive, his head bowed, avoiding eye contact, his hands between his knees. Even when he stood up, his hands remained clasped in front of him. Evidently, the trauma of the hell endured until he was rescued by Kenyan soldiers still casts a dark shadow over his life. On Monday, Njuguna was reunited with his family at their home in Gichagi-ini in Kandara, Murang’a County. But he found out that his wife had left with his son. Despite being freed, he was still apprehensive and had great difficulty narrating his ordeal. Njuguna said he and a man identified as James Kiarie were rescued on Thursday night in southern Somalia. His recollection of his capture by Al-Shabaab was vivid: “I was an assistant driver and we were delivering drugs to Afmadow (in Somalia). We were near an Al-Shabaab base when they arrested me, claiming I was an undercover agent sent to spy on them by the Kenyan government.” He was seized and locked in a cell, where he found Kiarie, who had been captured at the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya, where he had been working with Care International. According to Njuguna, Kiarie comes from Mathare-ini, also in Murang’a County. Although Kiarie is supposed to be with his family in Nairobi, the Nation could not trace him. At the time of his kidnapping, Mr Njuguna worked for Shibli Enterprises Ltd, a firm contracted by Médecins Sans Frontières to ferry medical supplies from Nairobi to Marerey in Afmadow. Swarm of mosquitos “We went through a lot of pain, which I am not yet ready to share now.” But Njuguna said that he and Kiarie would be regularly blindfolded and that their conditions were inhumane. At night, the swarms of mosquitos which attacked them were almost unearthly. In the face of the trauma, the two compatriots would encourage each other. “We knew one day we would either die in captivity or go home but sometimes we lost hope of seeing our people again,” he said. The fate of the two had remained unknown until February 24 when Al-Shabaab commanders paraded them in a mosque at Barawe amid reports that the two had converted to Islam and would be “released without conditions”. “I converted to save my soul,” he told the Nation. “That was the only way to survive and avoid death.” Kenya military last week said that the two were rescued during an ambush at a roadblock, but Njuguna appeared to suggest that Al-Shabaab had attempted to trade them off to the Somali National Army in a deal that collapsed. He said they were travelling in a matatu with his captors and on reaching Afmadow, they found a barrier manned by Somalia military and they were arrested and locked up in a house. In the night, Kenyan soldiers burst in, identified themselves and immediately took them to the Amisom Level II Hospital in Dhobley for treatment. No shots were fired but he explains: “It was force because it’s like they were not ready to let us go. It’s like they wanted to trade us in and KDF intervened.” They were then flown to Nairobi aboard a military aircraft, taken to an undisclosed location for debriefing and later released to join their families on Sunday. Njuguna’s mother, Mrs Ruth Wairimu Wanyoike, was overjoyed to be reunited with her son. She said she has been devastated for almost three years. “Two weeks ago after having run out of resources and ideas, we gave up and left everything to God,” she said. But all was not lost. “I was picking tea on Friday when a neighbour came and told me that he had heard news over the radio about the release of my son,” the mother of six said. The family was contacted by government officials and six of them travelled to Nairobi and met their lost and found son for the first time in almost three years. Despite all the celebrations around him, Njuguna was pensive. His wife left their home together with their son. A house he had been building is still at the foundation stage. “I do not know where to begin. I am happy to be home and God has answered the prayers of my family,” he said. Source:
  10. Dahabshiil today took part in an event to launch a new report by leading development think tank the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), which found that Africans living abroad face some of the highest fees in the world to send money home. According to the research into global charges on money sent to sub-Saharan Africa, the average rate to send $200 is 12% – more than double the global average. This is a shockingly high figure. Dahabshiil is proud to have some of the lowest transaction costs in the business, consistently meeting and beating the 5% target set by both the G8 and G20. The ODI report demonstrates the vital role that affordable remittances play in the developing world. The Somali remittance industry is focussed on developing and maintaining a regulated remittance offering that will enable the customers in Somalia to continue to send and receive vital remittance payments to family and NGOs in Africa. Speaking at the event Mr Duale said: “The ODI report published today demonstrates the vital role that Dahabshiil and others play in providing affordable remittance services from the UK to the Diaspora in Africa. “The ODI is rightly drawing attention to the ‘super-tax’ on remittances that many people sending money to family in Africa are forced to pay. We must prioritise solutions that help Africa and help those who rely on remittances as a genuine lifeline. “At Dahabshiil we pride ourselves on providing a safe, efficient and cost effective service for our customers and I am therefore extremely pleased to be able to say that we already meet and beat the 5% target on transaction costs set by the G8 and G20. “It is important for the industry to continue to innovate and embrace new technology. The Somali money transfer industry is continuing to work closely with the UK Government and other stakeholders to develop the “Somali Safer Corridor” which will enable vital remittance monies to continue to be sent from the UK to those in Africa a safe and regulated environment.” SOURCE: Dahabshiil
  11. MINNEAPOLIS -- Minneapolis Police Officer Mohammed Abdullahi didn't always dream of a badge. "I actually wanted to go to dental school, so I did a big 360 somehow," Officer Abdullahi said while on patrol Monday night. He spent some time growing up in Cedar Riverside after he emigrated from Somalia when he said he started to notice a problem. "The community was being victimized by gang members from the Somali Community," Abdullahi recalled. So in 2006 he decided to protect and serve his own. "People were not trusting the police, and I thought I could be a good ambassador to be a bridge between the police department and the community," Abdullahi said. Mohammed Abdullahi became the first Somali police officer in the state of Minnesota. It made a difference and created a following. "We see him as a role model for us, for all the Somali police officers," Abdullahi's patrol partner, Officer Ali Abdiwahab said. The pair patrols for MPD in the first precinct, which includes the Cedar Riverside community. In addition to the calls they answer, they make it a point to patrol that area on foot as much as they can. On Monday night they visited a Somali Mall in Cedar Riverside and listened to concerns of elders about the recent shootings that took the lives of two Somali people. It's those visits that lead to clues the officers can hand over to investigators before they head back out to face the night's calls. It's an old school police tactic, but it works. When a community is reflected by its own on both sides of the blue line.
  12. Crossbones by Nuruddin Farah Set in Somalia around the 2006 US-backed Ethiopian invasion, the final volume in Farah's Past Imperfect trilogy can be read as a standalone novel. This absorbing story puts a human face to the tragedy of a failed state. Three members of a Somali-American family return to find their homeland imploding under an Islamist regime in control of the capital, Mogadishu, as war nears and piracy proliferates off the coast of breakaway Puntland. Foreign correspondent Malik has come to write about political conflict and piracy; his father-in-law, Jeebleh, is re-establishing contact with old friends who he hopes will protect Malik and ease his path; and Malik's elder brother, Ahl, is searching for a stepson thought to have joined the Islamist militia on advice from an imam in his Minnesota hometown. Farah skilfully evokes the paranoia and desperation that stalks the fragmented country, where trust is in short supply and good people find themselves unable to steer it away from self-destruction. This is an impassioned insider's portrayal of present-day Somalia, and of lives blighted by relentless violence and civil war. Somalia's most famous novelist went into exile in the 1970s, during the rule of the dictator Siad Barre. He now lives in the US and South Africa, but has vowed "to keep my country alive by writing about it". The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed On the eve of the civil war in the late 1980s, two women and a girl in Hargeisa, north-western Somalia, find themselves caught up in the turbulence as their lives intersect. In this story of conflict and survival, events unfold through the eyes of Deqo, a nine-year-old orphan born and raised in a refugee camp, who ran away and is now cared for by prostitutes; Kawsar, an elderly, grieving widow bedridden after being beaten at a police station; and Filsan, a zealous young soldier from Mogadishu, here to help suppress the growing rebellion against the dictatorship. All three are wrestling with memories of lost loved ones. In a chapter on each revealing their past, Mohamed sensitively builds her cast of strong, self-empowered female characters. As the revolt grows and the army moves "not just to black out the city but to silence it", the civil war's first "orgy of violence [is] enacted". But amid the harrowing events taking place, the author inserts a ray of hope. Mohamed succeeds in achieving her stated goal of "[elucidating] Somali history for a wider audience". The author, born in Hargeisa (now in Somaliland), came to Britain with her family aged five – a temporary move made permanent by the civil war. The World's Most Dangerous Place by James Fergusson Under the attention-seeking title is a perceptive and engaging account of Somalia's descent into violence and lawlessness. The country has not had a properly functioning central government since the overthrow of the dictator Siad Barre in 1991. Meanwhile, it has seen seemingly endless clan warfare, abrutal Islamist insurgency, foreign military interventions, famine, pervasive corruption, piracy and – unsurprisingly – the flight of about 2 million people abroad. The civil war is known locally as "the destruction", and one source tells the author that wherever the four horsemen of the apocalypse ride out to in the world, they return nightly to stable in Somalia. Fergusson travels within Somalia and beyond, also visiting the peaceful but unrecognised Republic of Somaliland; the breakaway region of Puntland, home to a lucrative piracy industry; and Somali diaspora in the US and UK. He explores the backstory essential to understanding how the country gained its unenviable reputation as "the world's most failed state", and why peace and security in Somalia matter far beyond its borders. Fergusson detects reasons for optimism, with the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Shabaab Islamists in retreat, piracy reduced, bustling markets, Somalis returning from abroad, and politics and law and order slowly re-emerging. Source: The Guardian
  13. Minneapolis City Council designates July 1st as Somali American Day The Minneapolis City Council voted Friday to mark July 1 as “Somali American day” in the city, which is home to many immigrants from the east African country. The date holds significance among Somalis, who celebrate independence day on July 1 both in Somalia and the United States diaspora. Abdi Warsame, the first Somali-American on the Minneapolis City Council, praised the resolution at a council meeting on Friday. A gathering of Somali-American men were in attendance. “This is a very important resolution for me,” Warsame said. “And it actually came from the elders and the community leaders who wanted to highlight the contributions, the culture, the values of the Somali-American community, which is a large and growing population in the city of Minneapolis.” The July 1 independence day commemorates when the Somali Republic was created by uniting two territories previously controlled by Italy and Britain. PHOTO: Warsame hands the resolution to Osman Mohamed Ali, founder of the Somali Artifact and Cultural Museum, where it will be housed. Source: Star Tribune
  14. He’s not just good for disarming military bombs and hunting witches: Jeremy Renner’s production company The Combine is developing Somali, a political drama centering in — you guessed it — Somalia. The film will center on a man with little political experience who is unexpectedly appointed Prime Minister of Somalia, only to realize his election was a move by those using him as a puppet for a greater goal. The current Prime Minister of Somalia, Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, has yet to comment on the concept of the film, but we imagine he’ll have something to say if the project gets up and running. While at first glance the political project might seem like an odd project for the MI4 actor to take on, let’s not forget about his humanitarian past. From StandUp2Cancer to UNMAS, there’s even a website dedicated to documenting all of the actors good deeds. And while Somalia has had it’s day in the sun in American film in recent years, we doubt Somali will focus on the “Somali Piracy phenomenon” an epidemic highlighted by Oscar-nominated Captain Phillips. Captain Phillips was a breakthrough for Somalian actors, not only did it employ more than a dozen Somalians, it also gave one, Barkhad Abdi, an Oscar nomination. (However, Barkhad was only paid $65K for his role, a meek salary compared to his counterpart Tom Hanks.) Yet this film still stayed in the general pirating genre, and offered limited views of what life is like in Somalia — according to the film, starvation and violence trumped any real sense of community. The film is still in need of a director, and no word yet if Renner will star, but we can’t wait to see what he does with the film, and how it might effect the American audience’s perspective on Africa. Source:
  15. NAIROBI, KENYA: The row in Jubilee coalition took another twist Monday after TNA MPs accused leader of Majority Aden Duale of being a sympathizer of terrorism for criticizing ongoing anti-terror operations. The MP are now mounting pressure on Duale to quit the ruling coalition as leader of majority for opposing a government operation as they further accused him of insulting and threatening Kigumo MP Jamlek Kamau. The seven TNA MPs who were interestingly joined by ODM’s Simba Arati said they will support the ongoing security operations that have nabbed over 2000 suspects mainly from the Somali community. The MPs demanded an immediate resignation of Duale or they force him out for criticizing the Jubilee administration handling of the war on terror with Kamau saying he had recorded a statement with the police over abusive texts that Duale sent to his phone. “Anyone who does not the government operation is a terrorist,” Kamau said in reaction to Duale’s opposition to the swoop that has been going on for a week now. The Kigumo MP while displaying text to journalists said that the Majority leader had resorted to insulting him after appearing at a local TV station over lunch hour to dismiss those opposing the operation. One of the alleged texts read; “The zeal that I have defended Uhuru Government is the same zeal I will defend my people. Come out of your dark forces.” He claimed Duale had referred to him in another text as ‘too small an ethnic idiot’ and dismissed the operation as being supported by ethnic chauvinists from the Kikuyu community where were targeting Muslims. A defiant Duale who is currently in Ankara Turkey said he was not aware of such texts but declared that he will not leave Jubilee at whatever cost while vowing his relentless voice to protect the interest of the Muslim community. “As the Majority leader of the jubilee coalition, I will defend Kenyans and the national security of our people. I will defend the Kenyan Muslim and Somali with energy and zeal that I defend the Jubilee administration. We are not guests of any one in jubilee. We are shareholders and founder members. We are there to stay,” he said. The Garissa Township MP added; “We support the operation but not for only targeting one Kenyan community. Terrorists have no tribe and religion. It’s an ideology.” But the TNA MPs accused their leader of hiding his true colours and said it was time he took the bold step to quit and allow the government to work. “If Duale thinks he is man enough, he should quit and in one hours’ time we shall have found a replacement,” Kasarani’s Njoroge Chege said. Bahati’s Kimani Ngunjiri said; “He has been hiding many things now these things are coming out, let him leave. He is drunk with power. Others MPs who include Dennis Mugo (Dagoretti South), Peris Tobiko (Kajiado east), Nyokabi Gatheca (Kaimbu) and Maison Leshomo (Samburu) termed Duale’s utterances as unfortunate and irresponsible while demanding for his immediate resignation. “It’s unfortunate that a leader of his calibre can make such reckless statement that his community is being targeted,” Nyokabi said. Leshomo challenged the majority leader to tell Kenyans of what he knows about terror incidents. “He should come out and tell us then who is making those bombs if he is opposed to the operation.” See also: Row rages over Duale remarks On his side, Simba said the opposition alliance of Cord will stand by the government in ensuring that dissidents are flashed out and Kenya remains a peaceful country. The Dagoretti North MP sensationally claimed that Dule was an admirer of the late cleric Sheikh Abubakar Shariff Ahmed alias Makaburi after naming his son Abubakar. The MPs, said their position should not be a seen as a war between TNA and URP saying that was Duale’s personal war. The Majority leader is the senior most MP in the house in the Jubilee arrangement that saw URP take over that position as TNA took the Chief Whip. Last Friday, Duale who had led over 20 MPs from the Muslim community to Eastleigh threatened to quit the Jubilee Alliance over what he termed as unwarranted arrest of his people. Although he has now changed his position on quitting, the outspoken MP dismissed his critics who want him out saying they were now making him popular among Muslims and Somalis. Read more at:
  16. The war on terror spilled over into the Jubilee coalition with some of its Members of Parliament ganging up against their Majority Leader Aden Duale over his threats to withdraw his support for the government owing to what he called arbitrary arrests of Muslims in Nairobi and Mombasa. Kajiado West MP Moses ole Sakuda took issue with Mr Duale’s threat to quit and said as a senior leader in government, he had access to the President whom he could consult rather than go public with divisive statements. “As Leader of Majority, Duale has unlimited access to both President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto because he is the third in authority,” said Sakuda who asked the Dujis MP to respect the doctrine of collective responsibility. “If Jubilee is targeting his people, then it is Duale himself targeting his own people,” said Sakuda. Leadership Senate Chief Whip Beatrice Elachi joined the remonstrations and asked Duale to demonstrate leadership by working with other leaders to help the country confront the terrorism threat rather than point fingers at others. “Duale is among the senior most politicians in government who should be in the forefront of contributing to finding solutions to this growing threat,” said the nominated MP who added that terrorism should not be viewed as a Somali or Muslim affairs because it concerns everyone, including the Christians. But even before the dust had settled, other Muslim leaders supported Duale and said the search for suspected terrorists in Nairobi and Mombasa was discriminatory. Lagdera MP Mohamed Shidiye condemned the government for “arbitrarily subjecting the Somali community” to inhuman treatment instead of conducting a credible investigation that could result in legitimate arrests. “How can you round up and beat up adults, arrest 1,000 people. The police are getting it all wrong. They are soliciting bribes and harassing people in the pretext that they are searching for terrorists,” said Shidiye. He has also protested that the on going purge against alleged terrorists was in gross violation of human rights and was counterproductive because it was marginalising one group of Kenyans. To gain traction in the fight against terror President Kenyatta should purge the police force of incompetent security officers, said Shidiye. Suna-East MP Mohammed Junet insisted that Duale was justified in his demands but said he must make good his threat to quit the Jubilee government if Muslims continue to be unfairly targeted. “Yes. I support Duale’s demands but they should not be a public relations gimmick where the Majority Leader is playing to the gallery. He should make sure the government he serves meets his demands,” said Junet. Caution However, some members of the Jubilee coalition called for caution. TNA national chairman Johnson Sakaja responded: “Are you sure he made those remarks? I have not watched the video of his speech and I cannot comment merely on what has been reported in newspapers,” said the nominated MP. Meru County MP Florence Kajuju said leaders in government must not create the impression that one community or faith was being targeted in the ongoing crackdown. “The government must apprehend those who are on the wrong side of the law, whether Christian or Muslim,” said Kajuju. “As an MP, one had to be the voice of the constituents, but leaders must also appreciate that the government is engaged in an exercise that is crucial for peace and stability to prevail in the country,” she said. Targets On Friday, Duale said police were targeting Muslims in the ongoing crackdown on terror and declared that as a leader, he had to stand by his people. Duale spoke at a rally in Eastleigh attended by more than 20 MPs and Senators from North Eastern, Coast and Upper Eastern regions. Mandera Senator Billow Kerrow accused the government of fuelling youth radicalisation by the way it was conducting its investigations . On Friday legislator accused officers from Pangani police station of raping women and demanding bribes from those they had arrested before they could release them. As Leader of Majority in Parliament, Duale is a key member of the United Republican Party (URP) and is its official spokesperson. The head of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Nairobi, Dr Adams Oloo, has tried to read into the controversy and said Duale’s predicament was clear . . . the MP was torn between serving the interests of the government and his own community. Interests “That is where this interests collide and he has to stand by his community,” said Oloo. Duale may be a Majority Leader but he comes from a constituency or community, which by the virtue of the position he holds, expects him to be their leading defender at the national level, said Oloo. Yesterday, a more relaxed Duale appeared to be more reconciliatory when he spoke to the Standard on Sunday on phone. Duale said he could not leave Jubilee as one of its founder members, but reiterated that as a MP he had the responsibility of championing for the right of his constituents. Witness “What we have witnessed in Eastleigh is disturbing and the police are trying to damage the good name of Jubilee coalition government by harassing Somalis and demanding bribes from those who have Kenyan IDs,” said Duale. Police have, however, denied extortion claims and cautioned politicians against making wild claims. Duale, who is also the chairman of 32 Senators and National Assembly members from North Eastern region, said they had agreed to work closely with the national security agencies to flush out all undesirable elements and extremists in Eastleigh and elsewhere. Source:
  17. It is seven years since Uganda sent 7,000 troops to Somalia under the African Union Peacekeeping mission (AMISOM). And for many soldiers, their lives will never be the same again. Meals After two days in Somalia, my worry for our soldiers was not about the possibility that they would lose their lives to the Al Shabaab terrorists. Rather, the possibility that our soldiers would return home too obese. Our soldiers have good meals – a lot better than their counterparts back here. Breakfast includes milk, juice, bread, sausages, eggs and juice, margarine and honey. There is also a variety of flavors for your breakfast – tea leaves, coffee, or chocolate. That is what soldiers enjoy for breakfast. Photo by Carol Natukunda Lunch and supper mainly includes posho (good quality) rice, chicken and beef and sometimes fish, beans and greens and mayonnaise. There is also dessert - apples, yoghurt, and oranges. In fact during one meeting with their Commander Brig. Dick Olum one morning, one soldier said he had a complaint. “How come I ate only five apples this week?” he asked. At another time, one of the chefs asked visiting Ugandan journalists to carry as much yoghurt as they could. “The soldiers are tired of it” he said. Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda says soldiers are still required to work out to watch their weight. “The people who are stationed at the exact battle points might not put on weight because of the nature of the work. Those who are stationed at our units and checking points we encourage them to work out as much as possible,” Ankunda noted. The mess (dining room) has a TV screen where they watch the international news channels as they enjoy their meal. There is also a refrigerator stuffed with fruits, juice and water. Courtesy photo: Major Renee Mwesigwa Young ‘corporate’ women On my first day in Mogadishu, I was shocked to see a feisty young woman, all groomed and dressed up in military uniform. I was thinking she is just a secretary for the UPDF in Mogadishu. She looked like any of those corporate women you see around town. But that was until I saw her juniors saluting her. I later learnt that her name is Maj. Renee Mwesigwa. She was among the women that President Yoweri Museveni gave medals for their outstanding work during this year’s Women’s day celebrations. She is a wife and a mother. Like Mwesigwa, the UPDF, now boasts of having so many women soldiers at the frontline. They look young, stylish and cool in their military gears. All professions The army has nearly every expert in them. There are lawyers, accountants, nurses, teachers, and IT professionals among others. They have caterers to cook, they have doctors among themselves name it. Captain Betty Akello Otekat, the head of nurses under the AMISOM says she was an enrolled nurse under the ministry of health. She decided to join the army and she has never looked back. She says serving in a risk zone has been rewarding. “After training, I have ably juggled family, school and my career. I completed a degree in nursing and I am now doing my masters. Some people think being in the army is the end of your life. But for me, it has just the beginning,” Akello says, adding that the remuneration is also good especially if one has to serve in the risky area. “A nurse working here earns over 800 dollars on average,” she reveals. Another UPDF soldier confided he was a lawyer. “Since I joined the army, my life has not been the same. I can defend security at the same time; I am able to give legal advice to my people or colleagues within the army.” The soldiers have two types of uniforms. Photo by Carol Natukunda Sleek phones and flat screens If there is UPDF soldier in Somalia who doesn’t own a sleek phone, it is just that they simply don’t want to buy one. Or at least one who has not bought a flat TV screen for their families back home. It might just be that they are rigid. The UPDF soldiers are earning in dollars. They receive part of their salary as allowance, while the rest is deposited on their bank accounts. But still the allowances they get are enough for them to afford modern TV sets in Somalia, which they send back home when they can. Uniforms There was a time a UPDF soldier had to dress up in tattered uniform. Not anymore. According to Ankunda, each soldier now receives two pairs of uniforms every year. One set of the uniform has smaller prints/sheds compared to the usual uniform we have known for years. The gumboots are no longer the ordinary plastic ones which burn the feet under hot sun. They are leather boots. They also have t-shirts backpacks, water bottles among other necessities. Discipline Forget their mean faces. It is only part of their job. A UPDF soldier in Somalia does not shake hands with civilians or even get too close unless you are in danger and they are coming to your rescue. You just might be the enemy they are looking for. This has earned them respect and admiration from the local Somalis so much that the Somalis now understand some Luganda. Commander: Brig. Dick Olum Residence Although sleeping is a luxury in a soldier’s life, once you are off duty, you are assured of a goodnight’s sleep. The bathrooms have a shower and flush toilets. Around some of the designated military bases, you can access internet, although it is slow. The rooms are improvised metallic containers. But they are painted and spotlessly clean. Each room has four mattresses with bed sheets and a wardrobe. There is also AC so you don’t even feel the heat even in this desert. Electricity is mainly solar. Although the water from the sea is salty, the UPDF is trying to have it treated. Source:
  18. While some African countries have made huge strides in terms of peace and security, others are still struggling to find their footing, a U.N. official who monitors development in the region said. Ayaka Suzuki, 42, deputy director of the Africa I Division of the Department of Political Affairs at the United Nations Secretariat in New York, said of the 26 countries her division monitors, Somalia is drawing extra attention as it emerges from 21 years of anarchy and conflict. “There is a gleam of hope in Somalia,” Suzuki told The Japan Times during her recent trip to Japan to lecture on peace building at Hiroshima Peacebuilders Center. “For the first time in 21 years, the transition formally ended with the selection of what everybody feels is a legitimate government,” Suzuki said. “Somalia is the test case of the international community to support the new legitimate government to craft its peace and to form a federal state,” she added. When civil war broke out in 1991 following the collapse of the regime of Mohamed Siad Barre, Somalia became trapped in a cycle of continuous conflict. After 21 years of anarchy, Somalia finally held a presidential election in September 2012, won by Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, a former academic, and a new internationally backed government was installed. Suzuki, whose department advises the U.N. secretary-general on conflict prevention and supports special political missions mandated by the Security Council, said that the U.N. has accompanied the new federal government every step of the way. The new leadership has received help to address very difficult questions related to constitutional review and support to increase security and the rule of law, she said. Even so, security remains a huge concern as many rural areas are still under the control of al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militants, she said. “Security is the biggest concern for us in Somalia,” she said. Last June, al-Shabab gunmen stormed the main office of the U.N. Development Program in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, killing 22 people. In February, seven Somalis were killed when a bomb targeted at a U.N. convoy went off near the international airport, media reported. “We are putting a lot of our colleagues’ lives at risk, but this very much felt that if we don’t do this now, the opportunity for Somalia could be lost again for another decade or generation. But right now there is a fighting chance that Somalia can come out of this terrible period,” she said. “Even though it’s a difficult prospect, it’s much more promising now than it was three years ago or many years before.” Source:
  19. Mogadishu, Somalia - Just before the weekend, a crowd of about 20 people gather around silver-haired Jiim Sheikh Muumin at a sandy white beach on the edge of the Somali capital. Jiim, as everyone refers to him, is a well-known Somali musician and actor and the crowd of mainly young men has gathered to hear him sing. Thirty years ago, Somalis would have paid a fortune to watch him perform at Mogadishu's national theatre - let alone rub shoulders with him at Liido beach. Before the civil war, he was a rock star with a big Afro and bell-bottom jeans. But times have changed and the civil war turned Jiim's world upside down. The 68-year-old father-of-eleven has been performing since he was 17, and is one of the few entertainers to have remained in Mogadishu through decades of bloodshed. "Most [musicians] have run away. Some have gone to Europe, others to Canada and America," he said of his former friends and colleagues."I don't blame them. They did what every human being will do when there is war; run away for safety." Under Siad Barre, the military strongman who ruled Somalia for 20 years, musicians and entertainers lived well. The most popular bands were state-employed and were financially well off. Lavish gifts such as cars, homes and all expenses paid holidays were common. All they had to do in return was entertain the public - in order to keep them busy and flocking towards the beachside dance floors and away from the political arena. "That life was a fantasy. This [pointing to the bullet battered crumbling buildings near the beach] is a bad dream turned into a reality," he said. "We had everything we could ever wish for. But above all we had dignity." War dampens the scene Jiim fared better than some musicians who also chose to remain in the city throughout the civil war. A short drive from the beach, off the newly laid tarmac and solar lit street of Maka al-Mukarama in the overcrowded district of Hamar Weyne, lives Binti Omar Ga'al, her daughter and her grandchildren in a one bedroom house. Best known for belting out high pitched notes and her supermodel looks, Ga'al still attracts crowds of admirers everywhere she goes in this city of a million people. She has plenty of stories to share. She is said to have been one of the late Barre's favourite singers. "During comrade Siad's time I had a diplomatic passport and travelled first class on Somali Airlines [the now defunct national carrier]," she said sitting on a high, sky-blue plastic chair. "After the Iraq and Iran war, I went to Baghdad and performed for Saddam in his palace. I also went to Egypt to sing for Mubarak. I was surprised when I saw how short he is," she added before the electricity went off, cloaking the room in an eerie silence. She wasn't one of the lucky that escaped the brutal side of the war. In 2001, she was caught in the crossfire between rival militias in Mogadishu. Eight bullets hit her chest, hand and both legs. Even though she survived, the deep scars that tore her flesh and bones remain visible. "It was not my time to go. Until that day I didn't want to believe there was a civil war going on in my country. I didn't want to believe what my eyes were seeing and my ears were hearing until I got shot eight times," she told Al Jazeera. That near-death incident left her unable to walk more than a few steps, and needing help to perform the dance moves that captivated locals and world leaders alike. "That is life," she said with a deep sigh, tears welling up in her brown eyes. "What is worse is when I saw militiamen robbing people and listening to one of my love songs. That is my worst experience of the war." Sounds of the diaspora During the last two decades, many musicians either left the industry or put their careers on hold. Few new faces joined the industry. Thirty-seven-year-old father-of-three, Karama Murithi was 14 and had just started performing when the civil war erupted in 1991. Raised in a family of musicians - his father, mother and uncle are all performers - he had to put his career on hold for two decades. "I was a newcomer, a student learning the trade. All of a sudden everything stopped. My life, my career, everything stopped," he said. "War snatched the best years of my life from me. Without warning, everything was gone," he added, bitterness coating every word he uttered. With a fragile peace returning to this part of the country, Murithi has once again picked up the Kaban - a pear-shaped stringed instrument used in Somali music - and started singing and writing music. "I'm trying my best to recover the years I lost. With peace nothing is impossible. I can achieve my childhood dream," he said, his eyes fixed on the full moon in the cloudless night sky. In the heart of Hamar Weyne, the same district where Murithi and Binti live, young music fans visit a small store called Iftiin to purchase the latest Somali and Western songs. The youngsters who frequent these stores come to have the latest songs downloaded onto a micro-chip which they insert into their phones. Abdifatah Maalim, the owner, says the war changed youngsters' taste in music. "They first ask for music by diaspora artists like Lafoole, Ilkacase, Aar Maanta and K'naan. They are not interested in the artists in Somalia like Murithi. Diaspora first, locals last," he said. "Music by musicians from London and Minneapolis are the most sought [after]," he added. This change in the locals' taste in music is harming homegrown artists. The weak UN-backed governmenthas decided to come to the rescue of the local musicians - but only the well-known veterans like Binti. A few lucky veteran musicians are now employed by the Ministry of Information - earning $100 to $200 a month. Older musicians are beginning to advise the younger generation not to consider the entertainment industry at all. "The danger is too big and the rewards don't exist. I won't advice anyone to join the industry just yet," said Jiim. But the hardship is not putting Murithi off . "The dark days are behind us," he said. "The good times are ahead of us and I will sing my way to old age." Source:
  20. (Somalia Online ) - A new document obtained by the German newspaper Spiegel from the American fugitive Edward Snowden alleges that the US spied on 122 world leaders with the late president of Somalia, Mr. Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed being on top of the list. The National Security Agency obtained special court orders for much of its spying work against these leaders, the document alleges. In addition to Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed, the list of world leaders spied on by the NSA includes the German chancellor Angela Merkel, Palestinian president Mohmoud Abbas, former Malaysian prime minister Abdullah Badawi and Ukrainian strong-woman Yulia Tymonshenko. Edward Snowden is former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and former contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA). Snowden who now lives in Russia, fled the United States after releasing thousands of pages of NSA’s spying database. News Snippet
  21. Pictured: James Kindle, Laura Byard, Kaitlin Lindsey, Ayan Mohamed Two days after the end of school in June, four Minneapolis educators plan to head off to a different kind of summer school. Three teachers and a Somali-born bilingual aide from Anne Sullivan Communication Center plan to fly to Somalia in a quest to better understand the background and educational needs of Somali-American students who make up 60 percent of the school’s enrollment. They’ve raised $10,000 of the planned trip’s budget, but still have $6,000 to raise. They’veestablished a web site where they’re appealing to the public for donations. The belief giving rise to their travel is that they can better understand the needs of their students if they have a chance to learn more about the culture from which they spring. About 30 percent of Sullivan students are refugees. The four travelers are associate educator Ayan Mohamed, who was born in Somalia, and teachers Kaitlin Lindsey, James Kindle and Laura Byard. All four work with English learner students at Sullivan. Their two-week itinerary includes school and home visits in Somalia, Ethiopia and possibly Djibouti. They’re hoping that a deeper knowledge of Somali language and culture will help them build stronger relationships with their students and their families. They're building on connections gained through Mohamed and her extended family. She left Somalia at age 10 and will return for the first time at age 32. She's working as an associate educator at Sullivan while pursuing licensure to teach English learner students, which she expects to obtain this year. Besides improving their own teaching, the Sullivan travelers plan to create what they’ve dubbed a Somali Newcomer Toolbox for other teachers. It will include a summary of their travel blog, sharing assumptions that were challenged and insights they gained; a visual presentation of recommended changes in teaching to benefit Somali students;a database of still and video images that teacher can use to make learning materials more relevant to Somali-American students, and adaptations of standard district curriculum to connect better with those students. They also plan presentations for Minneapolis teachers before school opens next August, and one the following spring for other Minnesota English learner teachers. The educators already have invested considerable time in trying to become more competent in teaching refugee students. Three are enrolled in a Somali language and culture course. They visit student homes to build ties with families. They’ve independently studied Somali literature. The major funding for the trip comes from a $10,000 grant obtained through AchieveMpls, the local administrator for the national Fund for Teachers. Source: Star Tribune
  22. VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - Horn Petroleum continues to assess the operating environment in each of the Dharoor Valley and Nugaal Valley exploration areas from logistical, community and security perspectives. These assessments will provide critical information required to plan operations in the Company's exploration areas. Efforts are focused on making preparations for a seismic acquisition campaign in the Dharoor Valley area which will include a regional seismic reconnaissance grid in the previously unexplored eastern portion of the basin as well as prospect specific seismic to delineate a drilling candidate in the western portion of the basin where an active petroleum system was confirmed by the drilling of the Shabeel-1 and Shabeel North-1 wells. The Company continues to pursue efforts to drill an exploration well in the Nugaal Valley block and is working with the Puntland government to move this project forward. Horn President and CEO, David Grellman, commented, "We remain very encouraged by the exploration potential of our Jurassic rift basins in Puntland. We have committed to the next exploration phase in both PSAs and plan to explore both areas to confirm this potential. We are also optimistic that the political progress in Somalia will continue and allow oil and gas exploration in the region to expand." Based on the encouragement provided by the Shabeel wells, the Company and its partners entered the next exploration period in both the Dharoor Valley and Nugaal Valley PSAs which carry a commitment to drill one well in each block by October 2015. The current operational plan is to contract a seismic crew to acquire additional data in the Dharoor Valley block and to hold discussions with the Puntland Government regarding advancement of drill ready prospects in the Nugaal Valley block. The focus of the Dharoor Valley block seismic program will be to delineate new structural prospects for the upcoming drilling campaign. Horn has been in discussions with potential joint venture partners and is actively pursuing new venture opportunities. Somalia is going through an unprecedented period in its history with a real opportunity for all stakeholders to assist in the rebuilding of the country. The first internationally recognized Federal government took power in 2012 following over 20 years of transitional or no government. In Puntland, a new President was voted into power in January 2014 and the transfer took place peacefully. The Company actively engages with a range of governments and organizations, domestic and international, around how Somalia can best develop a stable Federal state including the institutions and systems it needs to properly manage its natural resources. Horn holds a 60% working interest in the Dharoor and Nugaal Valley blocks and is the operator. The other partners in the blocks are Range Resources (20%) and Red Emperor (20%). Africa Oil Corp. holds an approximate 45% equity interest in Horn. Source: Horn Peroleum
  23. (Bloomberg) - Somalia is conducting offshore surveys in hopes of attracting explorers including Royal Dutch Shell Plc two decades after the outbreak of a bloody civil war drove foreign investors away. The East African country plans to hold a licensing tender next year after Soma Oil and Gas, funded by Russian billionaire Alexander Djaparidze, completes the seismic study, according to Abdullahi Haider, a federal government adviser. Somalia, with no proven reserves, has been in talks with Shell about resuming work suspended at the start of the war in 1991, said Abdirizak Omar Mohamed, an adviser to President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud. “Once we settle all the issues between the federal-central government and regional authorities, the petroleum law, the establishment of the regulatory framework, then optimistically there will be full-scale exploration,” Haider said in an interview from Mogadishu. “This time next year we could have the possibility of seeing major oil companies coming in.” International oil companies are weighing a return to the Horn of Africa nation as the political situation stabilizes and pirate attacks subside. Somalia wants to catch up with Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique to the south, where recent discoveries promise East Africa’s first oil exports as soon as 2016. Armed Insurgents “We have expressed interest in appraising opportunities for future projects in Somalia,” said Julia Dudley, a London-based spokeswoman at Shell. The Anglo-Dutch company holds rights to blocks M3 to M7 where it still has force majeure in place, exempting it from exploration obligations. Foreign investors continue to face obstacles, from problems transferring funds to the country to security threats from al-Shabaab militants, who have waged an insurgency since 2007 to try to topple the Western-backed government and impose Shariah, or Islamic law. Djaparidze-led investment company Winter Sky, which holds 30 percent of Soma Oil, provided the explorer with $50 million to start the survey in an area the size of the North Sea, Soma Oil Chief Executive Officer Robert Sheppard said. Soma Oil will have the right to make an application for as many as 12 blocks covering 60,000 square kilometers (23,000 square miles) in “consideration for doing” the seismic study, he said. ‘Risk Exposure’ The company “will be given some blocks, but it’s not going to be their own preferences,” said Mohamed, the government adviser. “We will have an open and transparent bidding process,” said Mohamed, a former national resources minister who signed the survey contract with Soma Oil. “Somalia seems promising,” Djaparidze’s son Georgy, a non-executive director at London-based Soma Oil and an investor in the company, wrote in an e-mail. It’s his first project in East Africa, and he chose it because he was seeking an opportunity to increase risk exposure, he said by e-mail. Djaparidze senior is a founder of Eurasia Drilling Co., Russia’s largest oilfield services provider, and has extensive experience in petroleum exploration. Soma Oil is betting on oil discoveries in Madagascar, where more than a dozen companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Total SA are operating. The island split from East Africa about 165 million years ago, and it’s gearing up “to find something very big” in south Somalia’s deep waters, where the only well ever drilled was by Exxon in 1982, Sheppard said in an interview in London. Somalia “will be able to negotiate and work with them, the big companies, on a more equal basis” equipped with seismic data, he said. “We’ll open the door for the big guys.” Source:
  24. Northeastern state of Somalia President Abdiwali Mohamed Ali Gaas unveiled Somaliland’s financial support for the Al-Qaida affiliated Al-shabab fighters in Gal-gala Mountains near Puntland’s port city of Bossaso. Speaking at public conference said that Somaliland financially supports Al-shabab fighters who carry out deadly hit -and-run attacks in Gal-gala area following Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud Silanyo’s visit to Laas qorey which created military tensionds around border territories of the two administrations. President Gaas stated that his government is aware of Somaliland’s role in Al-shabab fighters maneuvering at Gal-gala adding his government will disclose it to the world what he called “Somaliland’s support for the Al-Qaida linked Militants, Al-shabab”. Al-shabab’s influx in Gal-gala Mountains in Puntland region appeared as the African Union troops led by Somalia national army mercilessly battled the militants in Soutern and central Somalia thus brought about the control of more than seven strategic towns to Somali Federal government supported by international community. The defeated but still lingering Al-Qaida insurgents crossed into Puntland regions through Somaliland having the go-ahead of Somaliland authorities to start distracting Puntland security agencies huge presence in the bordering areas with Somaliland motivating Puntland deposit their attention on Galgala Mountains security threat of Al-shabab brainwashed redicals, alleges Puntland’s head. Puntland and Somalind had been clashing since 2002 over territory disputes though the two administrations recently chosen to send representatives overseas on behalf of the two authorities to talk on the disputed areas with no physical attack. Al-shabab branch in Gal-gala Mountains suspected of preparing the assassinations targeting senior government officials and clan elders in Puntland also instigate attacks on Puntland forces in Gal-gala area. On Sunday, Somaliland deployed military forces with heavy armored vehicles in Armale area about 75 Km Baran, Sanaag’s centre. Puntland also increased a military forces presence in Laas qorey with the motive of restricting any further visits of a delegation led by Somaliland President silaanyo cross into Puntland territories. Puntland Information minister Abdiwali Indha Guran said Somiland’s martial movement can be grasped as Land seize and provocation which Puntland will aggressively react to. As a response, Somaliland’s defense minister indicts Puntland to start military forces exercise in the bordering territories of the two administrations and they will also respond to military exercise. On the other hand, United Nations envoy to Somalia Nicholas Kay showed a concern on political tensions between Puntland and Somalind. “To the north, I am also concerned by the military tensions between Puntland and Somaliland in the Sool and Sanaag regions. I call for maximum caution and avoidance of confrontation.” He said. Nickolas Kay urged both parties to restrain opposing forces while emphasizing the need of security restoration in Somalia but not flipside into another decade of civil war. Puntland shows concern on the increasing terrorist threats in the region while putting the security agencies on alert. Source:
  25. NAIROBI - Homosexuality in Kenya is as bad a problem as terrorism, the ruling party's parliamentary leader said on Wednesday, but argued against stepping up legal sanctions on the grounds that existing laws were tough enough. Aden Duale, the majority leader from President Uhuru Kenyatta's ruling Jubilee coalition, was responding to a group of MPs demanding tougher laws. "Can't we just be brave enough, seeing that we are a sovereign state, and outlaw gayism and lesbianism, the way Uganda has done?" legislator Alois Lentoimaga said. Uganda has voted for life imprisonment for some homosexual acts, prompting some international donors to suspend aid. Duale, who speaks on behalf of the Kenyan government in the assembly, said: "We need to go on and address this issue the way we want to address terrorism ... "It's as serious as terrorism. It's as serious as any other social evil," Duale said, referring to a spate of attacks by al-Qaida-linked Somali Islamist militants carried out in retaliation for Kenya's intervention in neighboring Somalia. Source: Reuters