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  1. TORONTO. March 25. A year ago Toronto’s Sami Jibril went into the Harry’s Spring Run Off 8km as a relative unknown and emerged as a surprise victor. On April 5th he will be among the contenders in this race which, for thirty seven years, has provided Canadians and international stars with a professionally organized and challenging course. The competition at the front has always been extremely tough too. Indeed, the course record of 22:35 was set by Kenya’s Daniel Komen in 1994. Komen went on to set world records at both 3,000m and 5,000m on the track not to mention the 1997 IAAF World Championship 5,000m gold medal. Jibril opened his 2014 road race season with a strong performance at the Jacksonville River Run 15km March 15th. That race doubled as the US national 15km championship and was an excellent test of his winter training the likes of which he has not experienced in the past. He encompassed between 160 and 200km a week in very severe Arctic-like conditions. His performance also confirmed his future lies in road racing rather than track.“It went well,” Jibril says choosing his words deliberately. “The fields were loaded on both sides, men and women, very deep. It was a really fast run until the last hill. It was a battle the whole way. It was hard to not be engaged. “Competitiveness? Every second of the race was competitive. It was good for me to be in a race like that. I ran 46:34 and was 30th place. I am pretty fit strength wise.” Unlike many of those competitors and the majority of the Harry’s Spring Run Off field he doesn’t have the luxury of getting away to warm weather training camps. Indeed, the 24 year old has not a single sponsor and must totally rely on his income as a full time employee of the Toronto Transit Commission. Jibril works the ‘graveyard shift’ from 11 pm until 7am five days a week sometimes as a repairman, sometimes as a janitor. “Depending on if I have got a group workout I workout in the morning,” he explains. “I finish my shift, go home for a few minutes, collect myself, have a coffee, a bit of breakfast and then head out the door. That is truly my workout. Any other day I usually get home and sleep. The other option is get my workout in fuel up and then sleep.” The adjustment to shift work was by no means immediate.“I did have trouble sleeping for the first six months,” he reveals. “I didn’t know if it was possible for me to balance the lifestyle of what I was in. But I figured through time management skills that I had that I really did need to execute all areas. I had some health issues. “I never had any of these problems before and my doctors could not figure it out and just classified it as a virus. So I was put on different medications and puffers and had many medical tests which did not help. During this time I was training with these problems and had horrible respiratory (asthma attacks) problems while racing the track season throughout the summer and fall of 2013.” The conclusion was that his disrupted sleep patterns had led to an aversion to some foods including eggs, dairy, gluten and hazelnuts. With the help of a local naturopath he says he quickly changed his diet and his health improved. Health problems now behind him, Jibril is exuding confidence as he prepares for Harry’s Spring Run Off and ultimately the Banque Scotia 21km de Montreal the Canadian Half Marathon Championship. Both races are part of the 2014 Canada Running Series. “I am confident that I am the fittest I have ever been in my life and am ready to compete hard to defend my title,” Jibril declares. “The Jacksonville 15km told me I am a lot stronger than I think and it reinforces my confidence that I can compete in a strong field.” Although his heritage is Somali-Ethiopian Jibril was born in Rome and emigrated to Canada with his parents when he was three. They had fled the strife in their region – Ethiopian troops were fighting with Somalian forces in Eastern Ethiopia – and landed in Italy. He moved to the High Park area of Toronto when he was 22 leaving his parents and two brothers and a sister in Brampton, Ontario. Training is done under the supervision of Hugh Cameron of Athletics Toronto. As one would expect his upside down lifestyle can limit his social life. “You know what? Training and work takes up mostly all of my time. I like to just sit at home and watch TV,” he allows. “I am a basketball fan so I keep up with the (Toronto) Raptors. I just generally kind of doing do much on the side because it takes so much energy balancing lifestyle. I do once in a while eat with friends. It’s not on a weekly basis I kind of keep it modest until the season is done.” Should his foray into half marathon racing prove successful Jibril says a fall marathon is a definite possibility. Modest goals of around 65 minutes for the half distance would indicate he will tackle the full 42km. In the meantime, though, it’s 8km through High Park that dominates his race planning at the moment. A victory there would be a massive step along the path he is taking to the top of Canadian distance running. Source:
  2. In a seminal trilogy on the Somali dictatorship of Major General Mohamed Siad Barre, which held power in the 1970s and '80s, Somalian novelist Nuruddin Farah wrote unforgettably of the regime's fellow travellers, who "hide in the convenience of a crowd and clap". Thirty years on Nadifa Mohamed, who was this year named one of Granta's best young British novelists, reimagines such cheering acolytes in the opening pages of her second novel, The Orchard of Lost Souls. Her focus is on the reluctant recruits of the Guddi, the "neighbourhood watch", which rallies supporters to a sports stadium to mark 18 years since the military coup that deified a nomadic boy - his mammoth portrait now hanging over the stadium "like a new sun, rays emerging from around his head". Mohamed, born in 1981 (and aged four when her family fled Somalia), is at one remove from the history Farah experienced, rather as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie'sHalf of a Yellow Sun was a new-generation take on the Biafra war, to which Chinua Achebe bore painful witness. While, at times, this distance shows in a dutiful assembly of images and references that fail to rise off the page, other moments reveal a tenacious imagination and maturing talent. Mohamed's muscular yet lyrical 2010 debut, Black Mamba Boy, which won a Betty Trask award and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book award, charted an East Africa ravaged by Mussolini's rule, by fictionalising her father's journey. This book focuses on women. The setting is 1987-88, a drought year of "unrelenting, cloudless blue" skies in Hargeisa - the author's birthplace in northwest Somalia - on the brink of civil war. As the rebels move their HQ from London to Ethiopia, revolt festers in the low-rise city, with alleyways the width of a man's shoulder blades, where power is cut at night to stymy the rebels, and the BBC is banned in public spaces, the goal "not just to black out the city but to silence it". The three central female characters are an ageing widow, Kawsar, bed-bound after a brutal assault at the local police station; Deqo, a street urchin from a refugee camp who is cared for by prostitutes; and Filsan, a young soldier from Mogadishu, a "neat beret perched to the side of her pinned-up hair", who has a "strange combination of femininity and menace". The plotting around a single incident when these characters come together is overly schematic, as are moments of authorial intrusion (an elderly woman is made to say of her neighbours: "We are the same woman over the ages"). The characters emerge more movingly in separate sections revealing their histories. Kawsar, whose orchard "grew from the remains of the children that had passed through her", wrestles with memories of her only child, detained as a schoolgirl, and lost to her. Her "anger dissipated slowly over months but never left, burning under her like a bed of coals". Most compelling is Corporal Filsan Adan Ali, veering between a disintegrating self and sinister flashes of violence, who misses seaside Mogadishu so much that "she wakes with its spicy marine scent in her hair". Grappling with period cramps on the eve of a military operation, Filsan hates being alone at almost 30. When ejected from the car of the regional military governor, a menacing hyena in a black Mercedes, for rebuffing his advances, she proves equally brutal in visiting her humiliation on others. Her Achilles heel is her "unknowable father", a modern man who spared her circumcision but had shown her "both tenderness and contempt, cruelty and honour, a glimpse of the world through the bars of his love". A complex history is often deftly sketched. Wonder at independence ("our first Somali textbooks, our first airline") gives way to the "five-point star on the flag" - the irredentist aspirations to unite a motherland sundered by colonial borders, that spell war first with Kenya then Ethiopia. Yet history is best revealed in haunting details. A schoolgirl thrown into an army truck "smells fresh, her skin and uniform so scrubbed with soap that her perspiration has the heady, detergent scent that wafts out of the dhobi-houses". In a hospital where nurses demand payment for painkillers, children give blood: "They are being bled dry. The soldier said they should be used like taps." Filsan's recovery of conscience may be a twist too far, but allows for a breath of hope amid the atrocity. Source:
  3. Template denials The Ethiopian Government, through its foreign ministry, responded to Martin Plaut’s article“Silence and Pain: Ethiopia’s human rights record in the Ogaden” with the usual feigned shock and template denial that has long characterized the regime’s political personality. It is the established behavior of aggressive and autocratic regimes to discount well-founded reports of human right violations as propaganda constructs of the ‘enemy’. The response from the Foreign Ministry was thus nothing more than a well memorized and rehearsed Ethiopian way of disregarding documented depravities committed by the regime. As usual, the tenor of the regime’s reaction is blame apportionment, not done on the basis of reasoned assessment of the evidences presented, but prompted by the urge to bear out its political prejudice and cover-up. This is a regime whose character has the potential to confuse even Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, former Reagan foreign policy advisor, who made a distinction between “authoritarian” and “totalitarian” regimes. In her essay “Dictatorship and Double Standards,” she describes authoritarian dictators as “pragmatic rulers who care about their power and wealth and are indifferent toward ideological issues, even if they pay lip service to some big cause”; while, in contrast, totalitarian leaders are “selfless fanatics who believe in their ideology and are ready to put everything at stake for their ideals”. We face a regime that is an amalgam of authoritarianism and totalitarianism paying lip service to the cause of ‘development’ while fanatically believing that a small gun-wielding minority has the right to rule the country forever. Although it calls itself “revolutionary democracy”, as oxymoronic as this is, the country is run by a revolutionary autocracy, whose slogan for justifying the oppression of the most valuable asset of the country – its people – has become “we build roads, schools and dams”. Why deign a response to Plaut’s article? Martin Plaut’s timely and courageous article deserves appreciation. He is one man who felt his responsibility as a journalist obligates him to bring hidden atrocities to the eyes of the world, even when the most powerful countries in the world would prefer to look the other way than to see the crimes committed with their money. If his report has a flaw, it is that it has adopted a very high evidence threshold not applied for other countries where atrocities are reported from such as Syria, and consequently has omitted several large-scale violations in the Somali Region of Ethiopia, including the Malqaqa massacre of May 17, 2010, the Gunagado massacre of February 12, 2012, and the Qorille massacre of September 06, 2012. A question worth asking however is why the Foreign Ministry chose to respond to Martin Plaut when the allegations captured in his article are not new? Numerous local and international journalists, reputed global human rights activists, thousands of refugees who run away from the region, and defected members of the repressive regime have been saying the same thing for years. In fact, the Congress of the biggest ally of the regime, the United States, has enacted a budget law as recently as January 2014, which contains important provisions that a) “put the Congress on record as noting the Ethiopian government is violating human rights; and b) prohibits the U.S. government from providing foreign aid that supports the violation of human rights”. A Senate report that accompanies the law says Congress is “concerned with the use of anti-terrorism laws to imprison journalists, political opponents, and others calling for free and fair elections and political and human rights.” The answer to the question is that the regime is aware of the integrity of Mr. Plaut as a journalist and worries that its western funders, embarrassed by the exposé, may start asking questions. Although the Ministry’s denial of the allegations of human right violations in Somali Region was riddled with the usual ‘take our words over what you see in your own eyes or hear from everyone else”, it was astonishing that the regime put an effort to debate Mr. Plaut abstemiously without resorting to the harangues and threats that Ethiopian critics in diaspora face when they decry the regime’s atrocities. From the day the current regime came to power in 1991, it has always been more responsive to the complaints of foreigners than to the outcry of its own people, a predisposition that affirms its utter contempt for the opinions of its citizens. Ironically, the same regime beats an anti-Western, anti-colonial drum when the foreign powers it relies for its survival raise one or two mild concerns. Geopolitical exigencies allowed the Ethiopian regime to take the money of the West while shunning its sermons on democracy and human rights. The regime is a friend of the West’s money and a foe of its principles, all at same time. It is futile to think unearthing evidences of atrocities committed by the regime will change its relationship with its Western funders. The West has long subordinated principles to geopolitical interests, one reason why the days of universal moral outrages against injustice are the thing of the past. Thanks to the age of the internet, the world has observed, with shock, the double standards of the West. The regime knows Plaut’s report will not engender a shift in the policy of the West towards it, but it does not like to take a chance. In its reply, the Ethiopian government made a couple of shocking and contentious refutations which deserve an answer. Divide-and-kill First, the Government states that the Ogaden clan makes up only 30 percent of the population in the Somali Region of Ethiopia. This may or may not be true, although the source of this data was not revealed. The 2007 census actually indicated that the Ogaden clan makes up 50 per cent of the total population in the Somali region. So, is the regime confirming that they have killed or displaced 20 per cent of the community since 2007 when it launched a brutal anti-insurgency against the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF)? Whatever its number, the size of the Ogaden community cannot justify the atrocities against it. This is a regime afflicted with the politics of slicing its citizens into ethnic groups, clans and sub-clans, rather than looking at them as individual human beings each with an inalienable right for life and dignity. The focus on the number of the Ogaden community betrays a tyrannical mindset that others and undercounts people in order to rationalize killing of members of the communities it deems “recalcitrant”. In 2011, the late Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, in a press conference, claimed that his government was facing resistance from only one sub-clan of the Ogaden clan: the reer-Isaq. Here was a full Prime Minister of a country singling out an entire community under his rule as “anti-government”. Of course, the result of that reckless or deliberate finger-pointing was what followed: summarily execution, detention, and displacement of the reer-Isaq community. Whether the Prime Minister’s point was to understate the appeal of the ONLF as a rebel group or whether he was sending signals for his henchmen in the region to act against this community is inconsequential. The fruits of his speech were the Guna-Gado massacre, the arrest of community leaders such as Sultan Fozi Ali Abdi, Garad Hassan Makhtal, and many others, some of whom have perished in detention. This is not to imply that only a sub-clan or the Ogaden clan alone is the victim of the anti-insurgency measures of the regime. The 50 innocent civilians executed in Mooyaha village, near Jigjiga town, on December 17, 2008, were from the Abaskul clan, not from the Ogaden clan. The tens of civilians killed in the Galka-boodo-libaah, Dhoobo Guduud, Raqda and Adaada villages of Gashaamo district on March 16, 2012 by the Liyu Police were from the Isaq clan, not from the Ogaden clan. The purpose of re-narrating Meles’s veiled instructions against a specific sub-clan is to highlight the divide-and-kill methodology of the supposed national leaders and the wantonness they can succumb to in order to prolong their control of the state. In fact, the same line of argument – that “only some sub-clans” were against the government – is repeated in the Foreign Ministry’s response to Mr. Plaut. Today, this politics of divide-and-kill has found currency in Ethiopia under the guise of ethnic federalism, while its genocidal ramifications are ignored and made to assume a parochial resonance by the international community. Of pictures and audio-visual evidences The Government claimed that the Somali region is open for journalists and that some media outlets such as the Guardian, the Globe and Mail, and Time World have compiled reports that paint a” different picture of the situation in the region and the development there”. These outlets may have written about some infrastructural development in the region, although it is unlikely that they painted a rosy picture about the human rights situation in the region. What is instructive is the selective referencing of the Government when it comes to international media reports from the region. The regime is happy to quote reports which mention social and economic developments in the region, but denounces those that speak of violations and abuses against civilians. For each and every story on roads built in the region, there are three or four reports on forced relocations of villages, extra-judicial detentions and killings, blockage of aid and commercial food to areas perceived to be hotbeds of rebels. The New York Times, Aljazeera, BBC, and many other media houses have aired damning reports from the region. Most of these reports, compiled by investigative journalists who sneaked into the region, presented audio-visual evidences of the violations. Interviews with victims and satellite images of burnt villages were part of the evidences presented. Needless to say, more than 30,000 refugees who fled the region and are currently in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya are living evidences – far more reliable than audiovisuals – of the atrocities the Ethiopian regime perpetrates in the Somali region. These refugees have repeatedly shown Somali, Kenyan and international media the horrors they faced in their own land before fleeing, often revealing unsightly physical damages as a mortifying souvenir of the torture they went under. As recently as 2013, Abdullahi Hussein, a former aide of the President of the Somali Regional State, defected and released over 100 hours of videos showing soldiers kicking dead bodies, Liyu police members confessing atrocities and elders complaining about the treatment of the Liyu Police. One gruesome video was particularly heart-breaking. It showed the Somali Regional State President posing for pictures few meters from the dead bodies of what was later reported to be civilians killed by the Liyu Police in Malqaqa, a village in Fiq zone. It is therefore laughable when the Ethiopian Government, without suffering any reflexive shame, asks “why are there no photographs taken by mobile phones that show the supposed atrocities?” There are hundreds of pictures and videos out there, but do they really matter? Won’t the regime reject pictures from mobile phones as being photo-shopped or claim that they are taken elsewhere? If there is nothing to hide, why the tight control on internet and mobile phones in Ethiopia, including the banning of Skype? How can you ask for evidence when you do everything possible to ensure no such evidence is ever taken outside the country? When you close off entire regions from the eyes of the international media? Who sees evidence of atrocities against North Koreans every day? By the way, what does the Ethiopian Government mean when it says the 2008 Human Rights reports about the Ogaden region are not updated? Does it mean the names of victims included in that report are no longer valid because they are released or have already died? Why does it matter if the report is outdated or not? The point is that it covered the atrocities of the time and there is no evidence that violations have stopped now. The Ethiopian Government claims that it investigated the alleged violations and found no systematic abuses. Who investigated who? Isn’t this like Saddam Hussien investigating the Halabjah massacre of the Kurds and coming up with a report that finds only a minor misdemeanor by some soldiers? Ethiopia, heaven for the press? There is no need to respond to the claims by the regime that there is a press freedom in Ethiopia. It is a pure baloney that even the most ardent supporters of the regime do not take seriously. It would perhaps be germane to mention that the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) lists Ethiopia as among the top-ten countries in the world who jail journalists. Denying even the most evident facts, Al Sahaf style? Perhaps what encapsulates the regimes pathological fixation with lying is its claim that two ONLF central committee Members, Sulub Abdi Ahmed and Ali Hussien (Ali Dheere), were not abducted from Nairobi in February 2014. These men disappeared a month or so ago and have not been seen again. All the evidence collected by the Kenyan Police shows that they were attacked while emerging from a restaurant in Nairobi and forcibly taken to Ethiopia. In fact, the official website of the Somali Regional State,, broke the news of the abductions hours after the men went missing, claiming that “two shiftas (bandits) were captured while trying to sneak into Ethiopia to continue their anti-peace acts”. The story was later withdrawn. It is widely believed that, realizing the diplomatic embarrassment it can cause it, the Federal Government of Ethiopia instructed the regional authorities to retract the story. The whereabouts of these two men are not yet known, although there are strong indications that they are held in a military prison in Harar in eastern Ethiopia. These men, who supposedly have “chosen the path of peace and gave themselves up to the Ethiopian state”, are yet to contact their distressed families who do not know whether they are dead or alive. The understanding is that they are either killed or that they have been severely tortured and are not yet fit enough to face the cameras to “confess their change of heart”. Ethiopian Foreign Ministry’s farcical story that these men gave themselves up is therefore a burlesque of the theatrics of Mohamed Saeed AlSahaf, Iraqi’s Information Minister during the second US invasion of Iraq. Overcoming fear, the start of freedom The abduction or killing of political opponents in other countries is not a sign of strength. It is a sign of desperation and weakness. It is nothing new as well. Tyrannical regimes do engage in cross-border assassinations and abductions. It is what Mu’ammar Gaddafi used to do in Egypt against dissidents. It is what Kagame is doing against defectors in South Africa. Despots do not rest even if they have full control over all the people in the lands they rule. They fear the truth. They fear those who defy them even if the latter live far away, for despots are aware of the frailty of their house of cards which can only survive if their subjects continue to fear them. Those who do not fear are a thorn to despots; and despots cannot rest without eliminating them. The only way the people of the Somali regional state, and the rest of Ethiopians as well, can chart a better future for themselves is by overcoming fear and standing up to the regime. And overcoming fear starts by telling the truth and refusing to be intimidated by the medieval tactics of the regime – threats, assassinations and abductions. The fragmented Ethiopian opposition may as well redraw its strategy. As long as they continue to partake in the divisive ‘ethnic-based’ game plan of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) – the ruling party in Ethiopia – they will continue to chase the rotating tail of the regime. They must introduce a different game ball, one which emphasizes the shared democratic aspirations of all freedom-loving citizens not the sectarian interests of each ethnic group. They can’t expect to win a game whose rules are set by the regime. They must come up with a new game and new rules. And if that means jettisoning long-cherished ambitions and dogmas, so be it. The political repression we face has no sectoral confines. It must be fought from the pedestal of national consensus. Muktar M. Omer
  4. WHEN he is not studying, Mohlomi Tauhadi works in his uncle’s spaza (an informal store) in Mapetla, a suburb of Soweto, the vast urban sprawl west of Johannesburg. The store is a small kiosk in front of a single-storey house. It stocks mostly staples and treats: rice, maize-meal, sugar, eggs, biscuits and cakes. There are perhaps 90,000 such outlets across South Africa. On a weekday morning, business is slow. The spaza has lost customers to two local rivals, one run by a Pakistani trader, the other by a Somali. Mr Tauhadi is candid about the reason: “They are cheaper.” An influx of traders from the Horn of Africa and Asia has been a headache for spazasrun by South Africans. In less settled places than Soweto, they are also a target for violence. Last month in Refilwe, a shack settlement east of Pretoria, the capital, more than a dozen foreign-owned shops were looted when a ten-year-old boy died in hospital after he was reportedly beaten by a Pakistani shopkeeper for stealing sweets. In September Somali-owned spazas were looted over a four-day spree around Port Elizabeth, a big coastal city. Immigrants with jobs might well be resented when barely two-fifths of working-age indigenous adults are in work. Yet such feelings are far from universal. The low prices and wider choice offered by foreign-run shops are a boon to South African consumers. Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Somali vendors have their own loyal customers, says GG Alcock of Minanawe, a marketing agency that specialises in informal retailing. There is no xenophobia in Soweto, he reckons. Most foreign shopkeepers have assimilated. Those who are attacked tend either to be new arrivals or to operate in newer, more divided settlements. Informal retailing has swiftly become a foreign speciality. Suppliers have noticed. Spazas account for much of the wholesale business of the giant Kit Kat cash-and-carry in Soweto. A few years ago around 90% of its customers were South African and 10% foreign. Now 70% are foreign, says Essak Karrim, the manager. They come two or three times a week to restock, spending upwards of 2,000 rand ($200). They flit between Kit Kat and other cash-and-carries for the best deals. An in-depth study of Somali traders by Vanya Gastrow and Roni Amit of the African Centre for Migration and Society in Johannesburg explains how they have bested their local rivals. They sell goods at lower mark-ups, preferring to rely on fast turnover of stock for profit. They pay more attention to customer service. For instance, Somali spazas will devise smaller servings of goods for cash-strapped shoppers; a small plastic pouch of sugar, say, instead of a 1kg bag. They are more likely to offer credit. And they open for longer hours. Spazas run by other foreigners have similar business practices. Single cigarettes are a frequent purchase from the Bangladeshi-run spaza in Mdeni, another Sowetan suburb. Musharraf, who works here, says he will give credit to grandmothers (who receive regular social grants) but not to youngsters (“they’ll never come back”). The changes to informal retailing coincided with an influx of refugees from Somalia as its civil war intensified after 2007. Migrants from other countries also sensed a business opportunity. The start-up costs of a spaza are fairly low. Newcomers rent from South Africans who were struggling to compete with supermarket chains. Many migrants can draw on clan networks to help get them started and generations of retailing experience to keep them going. The locals are adapting. “We are trying our best to keep up”, says Mr Tauhadi. One reason his uncle’s store has kept some of its customers is that they are offered credit. The store is already open all hours. “Maybe you can’t beat them on price but you can beat them on service,” he says. Source: Economist
  5. NAIROBI, March 20 (Xinhua) -- Eastleigh, a commercial hub on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, is widely known as small Mogadishu due to the huge number of Somali immigrants inhabiting the town. The Somalis' vibrant engagement in business makes them stand out in the district. Their huge population, which has eclipsed that of locals, has made them own the town. But Eastleigh is not all about Somalis. Tens of other immigrants from countries neighboring Kenya, majority of them in conflict, also reside there giving Somalis a run for their money. They include immigrants from Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Tanzania and Congo. While their numbers may not be as big as that of Somalis, these nationals have made Eastleigh a melting pot of regional cultures. The commercial hub is the only place in Kenya where one encounters and learns about the diversity and complexities of the people and the region. It does not take much for one to appreciate Eastleigh as a melting pot of the larger East Africa cultures. A walk on the streets of the commercial district and a chat with residents brings out this fact. To start with, due to their huge numbers, the Somali culture is conspicuous and dominates Eastleigh. To say that it has even obscured that of Kenyans is not far from the truth. Walking in the streets of the Eastleigh, one picks out the Somali culture from anywhere he glances. Their dressing, business acumen and religious practices stand out. Most Somali men dress in shukas (wrappers) and kanzus of different colors. While a good number are slowly discarding these clothing and adopting the modern trend of dressing in trousers and jeans, the kanzus still reign supreme. In Eastleigh, you will see Somali men dressed in kanzu as they go about their businesses on the streets and in their shops. Talking of shops; the Somalis' business acumen stands out in Eastleigh and it has made the district to be what it is – the biggest commercial hub in Nairobi. The Somalis own and operate over 90 percent of businesses both huge and small in the town. The businesses include hotels, hospitals and fashion stores, which are hosted in several shopping malls in the area. From these shops, one gets the best bargains one can ever find in Nairobi, the reason why thousands of people flock to Eastleigh to buy goods. All one needs is good bargaining skills that will enable them engage with the sellers. Somalis are very good at haggling for prices and never want a customer to leave their shop without buying anything. And as expected, Somali food dominates the menu in most hotels in Eastleigh. The cuisines include pilau, which consists of spiced rice and meat, canjeero (bread) and pasta. These foods are readily available in hotels in the district for anyone who may want to sample a delicacy from the community. Away from Somalis, Ethiopians and Eritreans are another group of immigrants who are conspicuous in Eastleigh. Their number is significant, effectively allowing their culture to thrive. While they may not be the best of friends back at home due to differences between their countries, in Eastleigh, Ethiopians and Eritreans interact and identify with each other. "There are a good number of Ethiopian and Eritrean nationals in Eastleigh. Perhaps 1,000 or even 2,000," said Eritrean refugee Mohamed Yonas on Tuesday. "Most of us know each other and interact. " Yonas, who escaped war from his country about a decade ago with his parents, is a trader and most of his customers are his countrymen and Ethiopians. One of Ethiopian cultures that stand out in Eastleigh is coffee drinking. Immigrants from the country have popularized the habit making coffee be sold on the streets by people from the nation. The drink is mainly sold in the evening by the women who hawk it and others sell it in kiosks to earn a living. The coffee drinking culture, which Kenyans have also adopted, helps to bring together Ethiopian nationals in the district. While there may not be much in terms of dressing that stands out among Eritreans and Ethiopians, as they dress like Kenyans, their food has become popular. The food includes injera (flatbread), which is much-loved by some Kenyans both in and outside Eastleigh. Injera is accompanied with spicy beef, lamb or fish stew. Injera is an equivalent of ugali (corn meal), a Kenyan food that immigrants in Eastleigh have adopted as they try to learn local culture. Top on the list of immigrants who have adopted the meal are Somalis. You will find them in Eastleigh eating ugali and copious amount of nyama choma (grilled meat), another Kenyan famous dish. Embracing the dishes has helped the refugees interact and blend well with Kenyans, whom they stay with peacefully. It is not easy to pick out Congolese and Tanzanian nationals in Eastleigh because they are not many. Majority of them stay outside Eastleigh. Majority of the immigrants in the district speak Kiswahili, enabling free interaction with Kenyans. A tour of the district and interaction with residents gives one a glimpse into the cultures of the region. Source: Xinhua
  6. On [March 16], 1993, Somali teenager Shidane Arone was savagely tortured — kicked, punched and burned with cigarillos — by Cpl. Clayton Matchee and other members Canada’s elite Airborne Regiment. Arone had been found by the troops breaking into the camp where Canadians were stationed on a peace-and-humanitarian mission in the dusty, war-ridden chaos of Somalia. Matchee was arrested for his deeds, but two days later he was taken to an army hospital after trying to hang himself in a detention cell with a shoelace. His attempted suicide and Arone’s killing-and-torture would soon be uncovered by the media, as would the execution-style shooting of another Somali a week earlier, caught stealing food from the Canadian camp. So began an extraordinary scandal — the Somalia affair — that would consume the attention of Canadians for the next four years, frustrate two prime ministers, scuttle the careers of several senior military officials, and reduce Canada’s once-proud peacekeeping reputation, and the Airborne regiment, to ashes. Questions and allegations ricocheted around Ottawa in the ensuing years, outlasting the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney and ending up in the lap of Jean Chretien’s Liberals. The Liberals ordered a public inquiry into the affair, which ended up consuming $25-million over two years, before Chretien finally tired of the scandal and shut the inquiry down. Although its work was unfinished, the inquiry commissioners produced a scathing report.1 It said the military — poorly led at the highest levels — should never have sent the Airborne to Somalia, troubled as the regiment was by insufficient training, lousy equipment, ineffectual officers and an unprofessional, “rebel” element in its ranks. Most damning, the report alleged a defence departmentcover-up about what happened in Somalia, including the tampering of official documents, later obtained by the media. Maclean’s magazine called it a “woeful tale of military incompetence, duplicity, cowardice and brutality.” The final toll was two dead Somalis, the ruined military careers of some of the Canadian Forces’ highest ranking officials, and the conviction of Pte. Kyle Brown, sent to military prison — a scapegoat, he insisted — for the torture and manslaughter of Shidane Arone. Clayton Matchee, brain damaged by his attempted suicide, was declared unfit to stand trial. Meanwhile the Airborne Regiment was disbanded, never to return, and the international reputation of Canadian soldiers was in tatters. It would take almost a decade, and a counter-insurgency war in Afghanistan, before the army fully regained the public’s trust, and its pride. Source: Richard Foot has been an editor with the Canadian Encyclopedia since the spring of 2013. A Halifax-based journalist and author, he was a founding staff member of the National Post and a senior national affairs writer for Postmedia News. He has a special interest in Canada's military history, and has interviewed D-Day veterans on Juno Beach, Canadian peacekeepers in Kigali and soldiers in Kandahar. He's seen 12 of Canada's 13 provinces and territories and lived in five of them. He's been "Screeched in" by the mayor of Gander, Newfoundland, has wrestled a rodeo calf with his bare hands, and once received an $800 speeding ticket for driving too fast on an Ice Road in the Arctic. His favourite Canadian book isMordecai Richler's Solomon Gursky Was Here, for its vivid, epic storytelling.
  7. Former Somali Airlines pilot Captain Osman Aden Ibrahim Burale with passengers during the carrier's heyday. PHOTO | COURTESY/ OSMAN BURALE Africa Review's Somalia Correspondent Abdulkadir Khalif remembers the heady days when Somali Airlines was an aviation force to reckon with regionally: Last month, Transport minister Sa’eed Jama Mohamed Qorsheel said that Somalia was committed to reviving Somali Airlines, the country's defunct flag carrier that vanished when the central government collapsed in January 1991. As I listened to him on state-run Mogadishu Radio, my mind was transported back four decades to the first time I boarded a Somali Airlines plane. My memory is not what it used to be, but I would say this was in August 1974. Together with nearly 100 other Somali students, I walked up the stairway into the waiting Boeing 707 at the Mogadishu International Airport (since renamed Aden Abdulle International Airport in honour of the country's first democratically elected president). We were destined for Havana, Cuba, having been selected for varied trainings on the Caribbean island, at the time firmly under Fidel Castro The plane made stopovers at Cairo, Rome, Reykjavik, Iceland and Ottawa, Canada before rolling up at the palm tree-ringed Jose Marti International Airport at Havana. Somali Airlines has had a history that goes hand in hand with the rest of Somalia. It was especially closely intertwined with the history of the Horn of African country's military aviation. Established in 1964, it went under with the dramatic demise of the regime of Siad Barre, the late dictator. To piece together the history of the carrier that few Somalis remember, I went in search of Captain Osman Aden Ibrahim Burale, a former pilot with the defunct carrier. He willingly shared his experiences with me, dishing up an intriguing lesson in the airline's history. Alitalia, the Italian flag carrier, was the first international airline to land in Mogadishu, the capital, in 1958. The Somali Air Force was then set up in 1960, the year the two Somalia regions of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland gained independence from Britain and Italy before uniting as the Republic of Somalia. A Somali Airlines aicraft. The carrier went under in 1991. Photo| www.somali "Though the Air Force was under the command of an Italian officer, in 1961 the first group of Somalis were chosen to be trained as pilots for the force," Capt Burale said. "In 1962, the first cohort were picked to be trained as civilian pilots in West Germany and USA. One of the conditions was that the individuals speak the English language." Retrained military pilots Capt Burale gave the names of the first four civilian pilots as Awil, Ina Rodol, Ahmed Ismael and Oofle. They were the first in Somalia to fly the DC3 and Dakota aircraft bearing the insignia of Somali Airlines. Somalia's military had always fed the carrier with pilots. "The military pilots were to be retrained and given a civilian certificate to fly Somali Airline planes," said Capt Burale. In the 1960s, the airline's planes served local routes, and also flew to Aden, the capital of South Yemen that was then under British rule. In the 1970s and 1980s, during the military regime in Somalia, both the Air Force and Somali Airlines made fleet improvements. The latter purchased DC9s while the military bought MiG 15 and MiG 17 fighter jets as well as Antonov 24 and Antonov 26 transport planes from the former Soviet Union. Capt Burale recalled that the Air Force also added MiG 21 fighter jets and well as Ilyushin-made bombers, and continued to supply Somali Airlines with pilots on a need-basis. The state-run carrier's fortunes were further boosted by the decision in 1974 to purchase a Boeing 707 for international routes, while also taking delivery of the smaller Fokker F27 planes for local flights. "In the 1970s, Somali Airlines got a second Boeing plane for its routes to Cairo, Rome, and Frankfurt in Germany," added Capt Burale. Other routes served included Jeddah, Nairobi, Dar-es-Salaam and Djibouti city. Captain Burale (centre) with colleagues. Photo | COURTESY Following a thaw in Cold War relations, capitalist West Germany in 1977-79 trained eight young Somalia pilots. Somalia had before then been sympathetic to communist Russia. Their new found relations were strengthened when a Lufthansa Boeing aircraft was in October 1977 hijacked to Somalia by four militants who called themselves Commando Martyr Halime. The group commandeered the plane and headed for Mogadishu, demanding the liberation of imprisoned leaders of the Red Army Faction, a cell considered by West Germany as terrorist. Following permission from the Somali government, a West-German counter-terrorism squad known as GSG stormed Mogadishu’s airport, freeing all 86 passengers. In 1988, the robustly-performing airline took delivery of an Airbus A310, further boosting its international flight offerings. Local Somali Airlines flights linked Mogadishu to major towns like Bossaso in the northeast, Kismayu in the far south while Berbera at the Gulf of Aden coast was used as a transit hub for international flights. The airline also provided charter flights, both for domestic and international destinations. Capt Burale recalled he like many other Somali pilots was first trained as an Air Force pilot between 1974-1977. He served with the military for nearly ten years, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Chinese-driven revival? Through a transfer, he joined Somali Airlines at the beginning of 1984, serving until 1990, a year before the company collapsed. The veteran pilot, who appears to have an inside lane on the revival effort will be Chinese driven, letting on that he expects the delivery of four planes by China, but would not specify when. Former Somalia Transport minister Abdullahi Ilmoge Hersi in August last year revealed that Somalia had signed an agreement with China focusing on the revitalisation of the flag carrier. "In a few months, we are going to revive Somali Airlines," said Minister Hersi, rather obliquely. In April 2012, former airline pilots Abikar Nur and Ahmed Elmi Gure, the current webmaster of Hiiraan Online, a largely Somali news website, met with aviation officials at the Lufthansa Flight Training Centre in Phoenix, United States, to discuss the possibility of resuming the historic working relationship between Somali Airlines and Lufthansa, the German carrier. After four nostalgic decades, I long to again board a Somali Airline plane, not necessarily destined for Havana but bound for Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Djibouti or Kampala. These eastern African capital cities are presumed to be the immediate flight routes the revived Somali flag carrier would target. Source:
  8. JEFF BACHNER FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Mo Farah (center) is helped into a wheelchair after collapsing at the finish line of the NYC Half-Marathon Sunday. The Somali-born Farah, 30, told onlookers afterwards that the collapse was “not a big deal.” He did not require hospital care, according to reports. JEFF BACHNER FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Left to right: Men’s marathon winners Geoffrey Mutai (first), Stephen Sambu (third) and Mo Farah (second) at the finish line of the NYC Half Marathon. "I feel good. I just tried so hard in the race," Farah said. The Olympic champion first stumbled awkwardly near the six-mile mark but continued on. He finished the 13.1-mile race in 1:01.07 behind winner Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya, who ended at 1:00.50. MARC A. HERMANN FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Olympian Mo Farah of Great Britain during Sunday’s New York City Half-Marathon. Mutai and Farah, who won two Olympic gold medals in 2012, are set to challenge each other again in the London Marathon next month. Stephen Sambu from Kenya came in third. As for the women's race, Sally Kipyego, a Kenyan who lives in Oregon, won in 1:08.30, a record for the race. She was followed by Buzunesh Deba, an Ethiopian who lives in the Bronx, and Molly Huddle, from Rhode Island, who captured third. Read more:
  9. (AFP) - US officials offered a $3 million reward Friday for help in capturing three notorious Somali terror suspects, including one linked to Al-Qaeda extremists involved in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa. "The department has authorized rewards of up to $3 million each for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, Jafar and Yasin Kilwe," the State Department said in a statement. Abdulkadir, a Kenyan of Somali origin who is a foreign fighter with Shebab extremists and goes by the alias Ikrima, was the target of a failed US Navy SEALs assault in Somalia in October. Shebab insurgents are believed to have killed thousands of civilians, peacekeepers and aid workers in Africa since 2006, with the group claiming responsibility for September's shock attack on a Nairobi shopping mall that left 67 people dead. "Al-Shebab's terrorist activities pose a threat to the stability of East Africa and to the national security interests of the United States," said the State Department, which designated the group a foreign terrorist organization in 2008. Ikrima is missing three fingers on his left hand, while Jafar is reportedly missing one eye, according to the reward offer. US officials have linked Ikrima to two now deceased Al-Qaeda operatives who played roles in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. SOURCE: AFP
  10. (The Star) - A recent trip to the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, has in fact opened my eyes to what a typical peacekeeper expects to gain from his tour of duty in Somalia. There, I met a Burundian peacekeeper who had returned from Mogadishu, the Somali capital. The officer, whose name I will keep it to myself, told me that, unlike the general belief that the African Union Mission in Somalia is there to finish off Al Shabaab and pacify the country, he was there for his own benefit and that Al Shabaab’s destruction was the least of his priorities. With a monthly pay of US$1200 and an extra US$500 allowance to boot, he earns more than ten Burundian and Somali soldiers each of whose monthly salary is US$50 and US$160 respectively. So this peacekeeper has every pretext to fear death and plan for a happy future back home. In fact, he was already building a new house, praying that he remains in Somalia until the building is finished. “I don't want to defeat Al-Shabaab. I would rather scatter them to prolong my mission,” he told me. That peacekeeper’s position may not represent the view of all AU peacekeepers in Somalia who have sacrificed a lot to win the semblance of peace that now exists in that country. But that should not distract us from the reality on the ground in Somalia that demonstrates the poor leadership exercised by the mission leaders who appear to lack clear-cut vision to defeat the militants and have so far did little to prepare for an exit strategy. Such a laziness that could be the result of complacency could bring about disasters in the long run, especially in a country whose citizens are known for their open hatred towards foreigners on their soil. And recent developments illustrate how the mission is staring what is known as the "mission creep" in the eyes, because the AU force is clueless about Somalis’ psyche, aspirations and anger. A widely watched and popular satellite TV, Universal, has recently aired a string of satires about the lack of fighting prowess within the force, showing peacekeepers cowering behind a tree, while a lone Somali soldier took the bullet. Another had it that the mission’s vehicles don’t stop when they cause accidents, mashing still bodies of killed people with the tyres of one car after another – of course for fear of stopping. In another show, a presenter has passionately appealed to the AU force to vacate the capital’s football stadium, saying Somalis need to have their land back. It appears that the political section of the mission is doing little to advise commanders on the dangers of doing nothing on the battle front for almost one yea or of the risks of failing to nudge Somali leaders to deliver services to the citizenry. Many policy makers, both local and international, are oblivious to recent changes in the country: What has been tolerable just a few years ago is unacceptable this time round. Somalis expect services from their current government, the first non-transitional administration since the collapse of the country’s central government in 1991. Lawmakers are now calling for the president to resign for his failure to address the insecurity in the country. When Hassan Sheikh Mohamud came to power in 2012, Somalis believed that he signaled a change because his declared that security, security and nothing but security will be his priority. Now that they got insecurity, they want him out. It shouldn't be a far-fetched notion, therefore, to expect a motion against the viability of the AU mission in the near future. It is really sad that, instead of planning for an exit strategy, the mission is digging in, eroding its earlier successes and reputations. AMISOM's recent decision to add Ethiopian forces to the force were both mistakes of strategic and PR proportions, a bad way to lose the war on the hearts and minds of ordinary Somalis. Prior to Ethiopians' inclusion, there was a lot of noise over the wisdom of enlisting Kenyan forces. To bring Ethiopians on board will only add to the exiting anti-foreign sentiments in the country. Somalis look askance at both nations. We should remember that the aim of deploying peacekeepers in Somalia in 2007 was to replace Ethiopian troops who were seen by many Somalis as an invading and detested force In fact, there is no plausible and strategic reasons that can compel the mission to add Ethiopian forces who, for years, operated in Somalia with or without the consent of the national government in Mogadishu but achieved little peace in areas under their control. Many Somalis still recall Addis Ababa's wicked role in creating and supporting predatory warlords and factions that shattered the Somali state. Ethiopia has even perpetuated the Somali conflict by undermining legitimate peace processes and imposing its own solution on the Somali people. Human Rights Watch and the Amnesty International have documented atrocities committed by Ethiopian forces during their two year occupation in Somalia, such as shelling hospitals, residential areas and slaughtering people like goats. In its 2007 report, the U.N. Monitoring Group has also accused Ethiopian forces of using phosphorous bombs that melted people. So sanctioning Ethiopia's presence in Somalia is simply aiding the militants to get more recruits --and they're not letting such an opportunity to pass up. The Al-Qaeda-linked group's recent daring attacks on government targets in Mogadishu, particularly last month's assault on the presidential palace is a clear evidence of the extent AMISOM took its eyes off the militants. The group’s 5,000-force should be no match for a 22,000-strong force. But it is one thing to have seasoned, well-paid, well-armed soldiers. It is quite another to be serious about defeating al-Shabaab. To have attacks on the presidential palace almost three years after the militants were forced to withdraw from the capital is an utter disgrace to the “an African solution to African problems” notion that has become the mantra after 2011. AMISOM should stop resting on its laurels and finish the job and know that the 2011's much-acclaimed victory is now a distant victory, and that militants are now pushing back against the continental mission. The UN agencies in Somalia have already taken note of this latest setbacks, and now Uganda is deploying about 400 Ugandan Special Forces, known as the United Nations Guard Unit, to protect U.N. installations. Rumors are also rife in Mogadishu that Somali government officials are not content with foreign peacekeepers or even happy having them as guards for fear that they may be a part of a wider web of war-profiteers. That is a rude blow to a force that has sacrificed thousands of its soldiers to achieve the little peace that exits in Somalia. To even suspect peacekeepers, a once loved and highly admired lot, of mischief must be the result of overstaying Somalia, whose citizens want the force to do its job and depart. Overstaying is courting disaster, so peacekeepers must leave while they're still loved. Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdisamad is a Horn of Africa specialist with Southlink Consultants. Source:
  11. There's currently no hotter band in Seattle than Iska Dhaaf. Over the past year, the duo—consisting of Nathan Quiroga (Buffalo Madonna, Mad Rad) on guitar and Benjamin Verdoes (Mt. St. Helen's Vietnam Band) on drums—has whipped the indie rock scene into a frenzy with a dual vocal approach and restrained guitar and drum rock that buzzes with heady melodies. Drawing its name from a Somali phrase meaning “let it go," Iska Dhaaf (prounced Is-ka Dawf; "It’s pretty phonetic. The more you think about it or try to make it sound like from another country the worse it gets," says Quiroga) has built all the hype despite only digitally releasing a few songs. Then again, Quiroga (as Buffalo Madonna) also contributed to a little album called The Heist, singing the hook for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's "Thin Line," so, comparatively, the local spotlight isn't too blinding. (His pal Macklemore pops up as a Bob Hope-esque character in the Iska Dhaaf music video for "Everybody Knows," which can be seen below.) Now it's time to pay off all the excitement. Today, Iska Dhaaf released its much anticipated debut LP Even the Sun Will Burn, and the duo celebrates this Thursday (March 13) with a record release show at Neumos. For our latest Fiendish Conversation, we chatted with Quiroga about the group's origins, Even the Sun Will Burn's lyrical density, and preshow yoga. How did you and Benjamin initially hook up and get started working on Iska Dhaaf? He started trying to learn how to produce beats from Peter from Mad Rad. And he listened to some of the stuff I was working on for (Mad Rad’s 2010 album) The Youth Die Young and became intrigued with my songwriting. So he wanted to link up and talk about songwriting, and at the time I had just started to get intrigued with how to play guitar, so I wanted to learn from him about instruments. So we just kind of started hanging out in cafes, just talking about poetry and lyrics and writing. And then I started going over to his spot, and we started messing around. And I just kept going over there, and then we started doing it like every day; we decided that we wanted to make something. Do you at all feel the local enthusiasm or maybe, for lack of a better term, buzz around the city for Iska Dhaaf? Because when I’m talking to people around town, you’re consistently the group that everyone seems to be most excited about. Ah, that’s awesome. You know, I do feel it, actually. I do, I really do. And in kind of the best way possible. I’m very immersed in the community around here in Seattle, and so it’s hard because I’m so close to it. It’s difficult to detach my relationships with people from the actual music and, like, how people are liking it. But I feel a really good positive energy and support, and everybody seems to be really excited. I can definitely feel it. And like I said, in kind of the bet way possible. It doesn’t feel like a quick flash. It feels like we’re building something with people that’s relationship-based. And people just want to see where we take it. I think they see how hard we’re working. I think that’s a big part of it too; that we’re at it every day, you know? For sure. What aspect of Even the Sun Will Burn’s release are you most excited about? I guess I’m just excited to just get it out there and move on. (Laughs) As funny as that is, I’m excited to get the new record out so I can keep writing more music. But I’m also excited for people to see the cohesive story that the record tells. There’s like a lot of different elements and I think they way that we curated the ideas and themes tells a narrative about this particular moment in time. We got slight glimpses of it through our releases, but we’ve gotten to see kind of the bigger picture a bit, and I’m hoping that it’s reflective and people get it. You know what I mean? If not, then it’s a collection of good songs that work together well. But thematically, I think the record tells a story. Not like super obviously. But yeah, I’m excited for people to geek out on that and really dig into the lyrics. I think there’s a ton there to chew on; a lot of condensed thoughts that can be broken down many different ways. So I’m excited to hear from people how they respond. How did the idea for the “Everybody Knows” video come about? So that idea about came primarily from Benjamin. We had some idea about a video and as he was doing research for it, he came across a video of Ann-Margaret, and Bob Hope, and some soldiers at a USO show. And these soldiers are like, jumping on stage and dancing with Ann-Margaret and were just wiling out with a frenetic energy; like they could die the next day. And there was a desperation in it that just seemed really beautiful and inspiring. So we kind of took it from there and launched off. Who are some of the up-and-coming local music acts that you think people should check out? I’m really big into OC Notes. Like I’m a huge promoter of his stuff. He’s got like a bunch of great records that he’s sitting on right now. Super psyched for when he gets that stuff out. Let’s see… what else have I been listening to? I like the Haunted Horses kids. I really like their vibe that they’ve got going on. I think they’re going to do fantastic things. I like that Pony Time record. I’ve been pretty hyped on that. Um, what else? Oh shit! Yeah, I’ve got one. Valley Maker. Have you heard of this? Yeah. They were part of the last Seattle Met Mixtape and I saw them open at Benjamin’s release show (for his solo record The Evil Eye) at the Tractor. Dude, that record is really good. Really good. I’ve been listening to that like on repeat right now and can’t get the melodies out of my head, and the songs are really well written. If you weren’t a musician, is there any other line of work you think you might have pursued? My initial reasoning for moving up to Seattle actually… I went to Cornish for theater. So like I was studying playwriting, directing, acting. I was extremely immersed in that. So I bet if I wouldn’t have gotten obsessed with doing music that I’d probably still be doing that. I always think have to be doing something that involved some level of risk, like, you know, that’s not a job that there’s any stability in. But it adds, like, a lot of meaning for me. And it also is constantly breaking you down and challenging you. I think that no matter what I do, throughout time, it’ll have to have those components: Great struggle, something to just completely obliterate my ego at a given point in time, just so I could have sustainable, better relationships with myself and others. Do you have any sort of pre-show routine? Yeah, I go running to try to get my breath support up and clear my head. And I also do yoga, if I can. This isn’t before every show, this is specially if I’m in town. I can go do something like a yoga class and get centered and focused. And I try to take the day really slow. I try to read, try to go at my own pace, because I can feel a lot of the energy and focus that about to be put on me at this certain moment, so I try to not think about it as long as possible. I try to really enjoy my day and get out of my head and not really worry. How long do you go running for? About 45 minutes. I run around Volunteer Park. How do kind of feel that Seattle, kind of the city and place has influenced your music? When I first moved to the city, I felt pretty anonymous in the city. And so when I started making music with Mad Rad, I felt like I could actually say anything or do anything and it didn’t matter because Seattle is a big city, you know? I was invisible. And now as time has gone on and I’ve created a lot of relationships in the city, I’ve realized like, “Oh, maybe something that I say or do does stick around a little bit longer than just that moment that it happened.” And so I’ve become more thoughtful, because I think of the community that I’ve gathered around and I realize that what I say does actually have some importance and weight. So I think that that has been something that has really influenced me. And also, I’d say that a lot of people who are in this city are doing things themselves. They’re really like teaching themselves. It’s very introspective in that sense. You have to have your own drive to really propel yourself and to teach yourself. And I think that’s always been really inspiring to me. I’ve met so many amazing artists in this city and we all support each other, but they’re all doing their own thing. They’re not, like, trying to hop on to somebody else’s thing really. It’s like they want to do it themselves. They want to build it themselves. They want to be the strongest, most versatile artist possible. And that has inspired me to like really want to take those things on, and that’s why I’ve been trying to teach myself so many different things. Source:
  12. Somali artist Abdulqadir Barre with some of his work from the exhibition at the Kingston Arts Centre gallery. Picture: Chris Eastman Source: News Limited FOR three years Aden Ibrahim has been scouring the globe to find art from Somalia to show his beloved homeland has more to offer than just war and famine. Now he is putting his collection of paintings, drawings, photos and artifacts on display at the Kingston Arts Centre. He was inspired to begin the collection when his young son asked him if there were any artists in the now war-torn country. “I couldn’t believe that all he could imagine about the country was war, famine and destruction,” Mr Ibrahim said. Artist Abdulqadir Barre with Aden Ibrahim at the Somali art exhibition. Picture: Chris Eastman Source:News Limited “When I was growing up I couldn’t think that there was anywhere better than Somalia, so I wanted to provide a glimpse into a version of the country that was beautiful.” It has been a tough time tracking down all the pieces and the Somali Cultural Association president has spent countless hours on the phone and rummaging through garages in an effort to track down art works. Some of the pieces even had to be quarantined and sprayed to make but he said he has had a lot of help from the community and Kingston Council and all the work had finally paid off. “To finally present it here in Melbourne is a giant step.” Somalis Down Under runs until March 25 at the G1, Kingston Arts Centre, Moorabbin. Admission is free. Source:
  13. Kenya's president and his entire cabinet will take pay cuts as part of austerity measures to reduce the country's rising wage bill. Kenyans have previously taken to the streets to protest against what they call greed among politicians AFP - Kenya's president has announced that he and his entire cabinet will take pay cuts as part of austerity measures to reduce the country's rising wage bill.The move would be a first in the East African nation where politicians like MPs are some of the best paid on the African continent, taking home $15,000 a month in salary and allowances. The average Kenyan earns just $1,500 a year.Uhuru Kenyatta said on Friday that he and William Ruto, Kenya's deputy president, would take a 20 percent pay cut while members of his cabinet will see their pay reduced by 10 percent with immediate effect, according to the Associated Press news agency.A new policy, Kenyatta said, would restrict foreign journeys to only the most essential. He said rules would be enforced to reduce wasteful government spending.Kenya is spending close to $4.6bn in salaries leaving only $2.3bn for development, Kenyatta said."We need to deal with this monster if we are to develop this nation otherwise sooner or later we will become a nation that only collects taxes to pay ourselves," Kenyatta said.He was speaking at the end of a cabinet retreat near Mount Kenya to review progress made one year since he was elected.The selection of the luxurious Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Lodge, for the cabinet retreat, has drawn criticism from local media who reported that it flouted a directive by the finance minister to use government facilities for meetings in order to cut on costs.Last year Kenyans staged a major protest near parliament against politicians' demands for higher pay. Demonstrators carried placards with words "MPigs" and "End Vulture Impunity", a reference to the MPs' apparent greed.Presidential pay cut A Salaries and Remuneration Commission formed in 2012 to review and determine the salaries of all public workers cut the president's annual pay from around $340,000 to $185,000 a year.Kenya's wage bill shot up following additional levels of government that were introduced by the adoption of the 2010 constitution which among others things introduced 47 county governments with elective offices that required recruitment of additional staff.The salaries commission has argued that although Kenya is among the world's poorer economies, its legislators are earning more than those in France.Anti-corruption crusader Mwali Mati said he was treating the president's announcement of a pay cut "as a gimmick".Mati said the only way to reduce government expenditure wass to stem waste and fraud in the central government.He said the auditor general's report at the end of 2013 said that over $3.5bn had gone missing from government coffers.Kenyatta asked for a probe into the missing cash but months later the president has not explained where the money has gone, Mati said."People are using gimmicks to explain away the inability of governments to plug leaking of funds," he added."A pay cut is not going to resolve the budget deficit in Kenya. What will resolve it is proper use of budget allocations and action on the auditor general reports."Source: AFP
  14. Abdulkadir Osman, Dugsi Academy's principal, stands outside his school in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011. ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Brain cancer at any age is a frightening, life-altering challenge. So it’s impossible to imagine what it must be like getting the news as parents of a kindergartner. But that’s the terrifying reality that Abdirahim Ali and his wife, Barbara Christian are faced with. The couple’s daughter Amina is only 5 years old and bright as the day is long. “She say every day she want to come to school and be a regular kid,” Ali said. Sadly, she can’t. Amina had just started school at St. Paul’s Dugsi Academy last September when her migraine headaches turned out to be a brain tumor. Surgery was performed to remove the golf ball sized tumor and begin radiation treatment. “It’s called PNET tumor, which is an aggressive cancer tumor,” Ali said. Students at the Somali charter school are learning far more than the three R’s. Amina’s cancer fight is teaching them the value of family — and helping out in a time of need. “It was hard at first, everyone was just speechless, wanted to do something, but didn’t know quite how to approach it,” said the school’s instructional coach, Sara Kiekbusch. The school’s cheetah squad got together and decided to raise money — to defray the family’s lost income and travel costs to hospitals, from here to Chicago. “I immediately saw light bulbs in (the students’) heads that they wanted to do something as well, and it was like mad chaos in our meetings because they all had ideas,” Kiekbusch said. One of those ideas was to hold a school sponsored dinner. When it was over they served up a check to the family in the amount of $5,000 to help defray their costs. Sometimes, what’s learned at school goes well beyond numbers and words. In this case, students have learned to tap into their feelings for love, caring and compassion. Looking at his daughter’s challenge ahead, Ali said, “if this shot goes through, luckily, we want her to be a regular kid as anybody else’s kid and get to feel better. She should have that chance at life.” Amina’s PETN cancer has a 65-percent cure rate. She will begin another six- to eight-month regimen of chemotherapy in a few days. A fund has been set up at the school if you’d like to help the family. Checks should be made out to: Sara Kiekbusch – Amina Ali Fund c/o Dugsi Academy 1091 Snelling Ave. N. Saint Paul, MN 55108 Source:
  15. The Somali love of 'rude' nicknames In the West, people tend not to call their friends and colleagues nicknames that pick on negative physical traits. But in Somalia, people have a love of such nicknames. When I got my ID badge for the president's office in Mogadishu the other day, I knew I had finally been accepted. It had taken a year. There it was - International Media Advisor, Office of the President, and next to my name the two Somali words in brackets, Timo Cadde, which literally translates as White Hair. At last, I had a nickname. Somalis are inveterate givers of nicknames but for the past 12 months the closest thing I had to one was Gaal - or Infidel - and, let's face it, there is little distinction in that. It is routinely used to refer to any non-Muslim, black or white. Gaal, come here. Where is the gaal, and so on. Now Timo Cadde, or White Hair, may not be the most flattering nickname in the world, but I will take it any day over Infidel. The first time I came across Somalis' love of nicknames was when the cleaning lady in our house asked where was Faroole, the young man who delivered our lunch. "His name's Abdifata," I said, thinking she had made a mistake. She shook her head vigorously and held up a couple of fingers. "No, Faroole," she said stubbornly. Now Faroole means No Fingers. Abdifata lost two fingers a few years ago during a mortar attack on the presidential compound by al-Shabab, the local al-Qaeda franchise. So much for sympathy. A word of explanation - Somalis are no shrinking violets as a rule and certainly do not hold back when it comes to giving nicknames. My predecessor in the president's office, another Brit, had a harelip. He was always known as Farurey, or Harelip. Somalis would helpfully put a finger to their upper lip just to make sure you understood. Direct physical observations - generally negative - are the order of the day when it comes to choosing someone's nickname. Dentistry here is not what it could be, so there are plenty of Somalis called Genay, meaning Missing Tooth or Chipped Tooth. Suffer from hair loss and chances are you will be called Bidar - or Baldy. Somalis can be quite a xenophobic lot and foreigners are frequently given short shrift. The Chinese are known as Indha Yare (Small Eyes), while Arabs are Dhega Cas (Red Ears). Since I have been in Mogadishu I have met a Jilbo Weyne (Knock Knees) Shigshigaaye (Stutterer), Yare (Shorty) and Yarisow (Tiny). Yarisow (Tiny), the president's spokesman and senior advisor, in front of a portrait of Madaxweyne (literally Big Head, or The President) Before he was busted in a sensational sting in Belgium, I had a rooftop lobster dinner with the notorious Somali pirate Afweyne - Big Mouth. Boy did he live up to that one. One of my best friends, a senior official in the prime minister's office, is Indhaade - White Eyes. Somalis also do a good line in schadenfreude. A while back some of my colleagues went to Uganda. They returned with the story - told with huge delight - about one of our team chasing a Somali girl. He is a good-looking young man with a large scar on one cheek. He was starting to chat up the girl when she suddenly caught sight of his scar. At which point her whole demeanour changed instantly. She looked at him contemptuously, snarled "Get lost, Canjeh!" (Scarface), and turned on her heels. Romantic encounter over. After more than two decades of fighting in Somalia, there is no shortage of people with war injuries. So you will come across men - and most nicknames are reserved for men - called Langare (Limpy) or Coryaan (Handicapped). An amputee is Lugay, or One Leg. A fairly high incidence of eye defects accounts for people called Wershe (Cross-Eyed). Those without sight are Indhole (Blind) and if you lose your hearing you are Dhagole (Deaf). In a regrettably unchivalrous move, women with larger than average behinds have been known to be called Foto Weyne (Big Bottom). But women are generally spared the abuse. Lul, or Diamond, is a common nickname for ladies. Then there is Macanay (Sweet), Cod Weyne (Rich Voiced), Dahable (Golden) and Indho Daraleey (Gazelle Eyes). My favourite nickname? He is 'Mr President' to you It has got to be the Somali-American I heard about recently with a large gap between his front teeth. Only one possible nickname for him: "Field Goal". I was talking to my Somali friend Sheikh Mohamed about nicknames the other day. In the UK, I said, some of these could get you in trouble with the police if someone objected. He snorted. "Puh! You know what would happen if someone called the police? The policeman would come, he'd look at the guy and say, what's the problem? He called you Lugay, or One Leg? So what? You have got one leg, that was Allah's decision. Now stop wasting my time!" Source: BBC
  16. (Reuters) - An expected drive to purge Islamist rebels from southern Somalia risks pushing them north into an area at the tip of the Horn of Africa better known for its coastal pirates than al Shabaab insurgents.Semi-autonomous Puntland state, where one-third of Somalia's population lives, needs help from the African peacekeeping force AMISOM to secure its border with southern provinces, its regional president Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said on Wednesday.A new push to rout al Shabaab militants from urban redoubts in southern Somalia has been expected since Ethiopian troops joined AMISOM earlier this year, but it has not yet come."It is obvious that some (al Shabaab) will seek refuge in the very difficult terrain in Puntland, particularly the Galgala mountains," Ali told Reuters by telephone. He was referring to a small range of mountains where some fighters are operating.Reeling from militant attacks on its doorstep, the central government in Mogadishu wants the al Qaeda-linked insurgents expelled from their southern strongholds this year as it struggles to shake off the tag of a failed state.Ali's concerns underscore a worry that the offensive may destabilize Puntland, a relatively settled region that al Shabaab rebels slowly began infiltrating after they were flushed out of Mogadishu in mid-2011.Puntland blamed al Shabaab for a rare car bomb attack in December in the port town of Bosasso which killed seven people.Attacks by Somali pirates have fallen in recent years due to increased naval patrols and armed security teams on ships.Although al Shabaab numbers have hitherto been limited, Puntland authorities and Western diplomats have voiced concern the Islamists might seek to strengthen ties with al Qaeda cells across the narrow Gulf of Aden in Yemen.UNEASY RELATIONSHIPUnder Puntland's previous leader, ties with Mogadishu became strained and the region largely operated as an independent entity. The January 8 election of Ali, a former prime minister in the federal government, raised hopes of improved relations.Ali bemoaned the lack of military aid for his administration to build up his security forces and the sparse information from Mogadishu about its campaign against al Shabaab."We have had no communication about this operation. We have a common enemy, al Shabaab, of course we should be consulted," the United States-educated leader said.Ali said the unequal distribution of aid between Mogadishu and the regions was not limited to military funds and federal government revenues and foreign aid, of which Somalia is among the world's biggest recipients, must also be more fairly shared.That echoed complaints by Ali's predecessor Abdirahman Mohamud Farole, who in August cut ties with Mogadishu in protest and accused the central government of undermining plans to create a federal system.Mogadishu has promised to share power and resources in the country seen as one of the last frontiers in the hunt for oil and gas in east Africa. But distrust of central government still threatens fragile security gains.Ali said he was open to talks on how to divide power between the center and the regions, a thorny issue the current provisional constitution failed to address.Who can issue hydrocarbon licenses and how to share future revenues are unresolved "contentious issues," he said."Federalism is now the law of the land. The question is to what extent powers are devolved."Source: Reuters
  17. (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday extended a partial suspension of the decades-old arms embargo on Somalia for eight months while highlighting concerns about the possible diversion of weapons to al Qaeda-linked militants. A resolution unanimously adopted by the council has its members "condemning flows of weapons and ammunition supplies to and through Somalia in violation of the arms embargo on Somalia, as well as the destabilizing accumulation of such weapons, as a serious threat to peace and stability in the region." A year ago, the 15-nation Security Council agreed to partially lift the arms embargo on Somalia, allowing the government in Mogadishu to buy light weapons to strengthen its security forces to fight the Islamist group al Shabaab and other militants. Instead of extending that partial easing for a year, or scrapping the embargo entirely as the Somalia government would have liked, the council resolution renews it only until October 25, which is when U.N. experts who monitor the embargo and other sanctions on Somalia and Eritrea are due to report back. "The resolution makes very clear that the Somali authorities need to meet strict conditions on the monitoring and reporting of arms imports into Somalia to ensure in particular that they do not get into the hands of al Shabaab," British U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters. The U.N. Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group recommended in a confidential report to the Security Council's sanctions committees last month that either the full arms embargo be restored or at least notification and reporting requirements related to arms deliveries be tightened. The council accepted the latter recommendation. The monitors' report, obtained by Reuters, warns of "systematic abuses" by Somalia's government, which the monitors say has allowed the diversion of weapons that Somali authorities purchased thanks to the easing of restrictions on arms sales. AWASH WITH WEAPONS Somalia's government last year had asked for the arms embargo to be fully removed, and the United States supported that. But other Security Council members were wary of doing that in a country already awash with weapons. The Security Council imposed the embargo on Somalia in 1992 to cut the flow of weapons to feuding warlords, who a year earlier had ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and plunged the country into civil war. In 2012, Somalia held its first vote since 1991 to elect a president and prime minister. The eased restrictions allow sales to the government of such weapons as automatic assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, but leave in place a ban on surface-to-air missiles, large-caliber guns, howitzers, cannons and mortars as well as anti-tank guided weapons, mines and night-vision weapon sights. Under U.N. rules, weapons and military equipment may not be resold or transferred to any individual or entity outside of the Somali security forces. The Security Council is asking Somalia's government to report regularly on the structure of the security forces and the infrastructure and procedures in place to ensure safe storage, maintenance and distribution of military equipment. There is a 17,600-strong African Union peacekeeping force and a U.N. political mission in the Horn of Africa country. The African Union force is planning a major offensive against al Shabaab, U.N. diplomats and officials say. Source: Reuters
  18. Somalia Online - The Security Council plans to discuss Somalia's arms embargo on Wednesday, March 5. According to sources close to Somalia's Permanent Mission to the United Nations, the lifting of the arms embargo will be extended with a modified resolution that includes new guidelines. The United States is said to be a strong advocate for the lifting of the arms embargo, and has persuaded other members to extend the existing resolution with a modified language on reporting. The arms embargo will only be extended for 8 months, and the Somali government is expected to follow strict weapons reporting and management guidelines. News Snippet
  19. Colombia – long a starting point for much of the cocaine smuggled into the US – has become a major hub for smuggling people from Africa and Asia to the US via Mexico.Police found six Somali migrants who were abandoned in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas by the people traffickers they hired to smuggle them into the United States, officials said. The men had been lost for eight days, the Chiapas Attorney General's Office said in a statement. The Africans were found near the border with Guatemala and were dehydrated, the AG's office said. The migrants were provided with medical assistance, food and legal assistance. Police spotted the men on the Palenque-Benemerito de las Americas highway near the Ejido Busilja crossing on Chiapas's border with Guatemala."After being rescued, the migrants said they were abandoned upon entering Mexican territory by the traffickers who claimed to be taking them to the United States," the AG's office said. Officials said Sunday that military personnel and National Migration Institute, or INM, agents detained 1,438 undocumented foreigners, the majority of them Guatemalans, during a nearly month-long operation in southern Mexico. "Operation Soconusco II," which took place from Jan. 17 to Feb. 14 in Chiapas, also led to the arrests of 74 other people, of whom 70 are Mexicans, on drug, people trafficking and other charges, the Defense Secretariat, the Navy Secretariat and the INM said in a joint statement.Authorities detained 955 Guatemalans, 241 Hondurans, 218 Salvadorans, 14 Cubans, six Nicaraguans, an American, a Panamanian, a Dominican and an Ecuadorian.Gangs kidnap, exploit and murder migrants, who are often targeted in extortion schemes, Mexican officials say. EFESource:
  20. In Somali culture, women don't strive to become police officers, Kadra Mohamed said. On Saturday morning, Mohamed was recognized as the first Somali-American woman to join the St. Paul Police Department, a move made possible by the department's announcement that it has approved an option for employees to wear a police-issued hijab. "It's nerve-racking in a way," Mohamed, 21, said of being the first woman of Somali descent in the department. "I want to be a good role model for others, especially Somali women." Mohamed was recognized at the police's Western District building during a graduation ceremony for youth who recently completed the East African Junior Police Academy. Police Chief Thomas Smith said St. Paul joins at least one other department -- in Washington, D.C. -- as the only departments in the U.S. to allow the hijab, a head scarf worn in public by some Muslim women. A criminal justice senior at St. Cloud State University and a St. Paul Central High School graduate, Mohamed said she contacted St. Paul police a few months ago to learn about becoming an officer. She said she expressed concerns over not being able to wear a hijab on duty. In Islam, females may wear the hijab as a form of modesty and cultural identity, and Mohamed wears it as part of her daily dress. In December, the police service in Edmonton, Alberta, approved the option for female officers of Muslim faith to wear a police-issued hijab. St. Paul police Sgt. Tina Kill said St. Paul police contacted the Edmonton police, and they provided input on a hijab suitable for duty -- the final product of which Mohamed wore at Saturday's ceremony. Mohamed said the hijab was carefully made so that it would not impair her from performing any duties. One row of buttons runs horizontally along the sides of her head, connecting the top half to a scarf that tightly hugs her neck. The buttons can snap off easily, she said, in case a criminal tried to pull the cloth around her neck. St. Paul police efforts to recruit within the Somali-American community have been underway since 2004, which laid the groundwork for the African Immigrant Muslim Community Outreach Program in 2009. Funded largely by a two-year federal grant, AIMCOP received $670,679 to develop mentoring programs with the Muslim and Somali communities, an athletic league and meetings at mosques and community centers to discuss crime prevention. The Twin Cities have the nation's largest Somali-American population. Garaad Sahal was St. Paul's first -- and only -- Somali-American police officer, joining in late 2012. Born in Kenya, Mohamed grew up and lives part-time in St. Paul's West Side with her mother, who fled the ongoing civil war in Somalia and lived in a Kenyan refugee camp before coming to the U.S. with her daughter. Mohamed said she is planning to enroll in a police academy to receive officer training after she graduates from St. Cloud State in May. After that, she said, she will apply to become an officer. Some of her tasks as a liaison officer include assisting officers in criminal investigations and extending outreach within the Somali community to bridge cultural gaps, she said. "She's going to be a trendsetter," Smith said. As part of the St. Paul police's commitment to establishing and bolstering relationships within the Twin Cities' Somali community, 23 children and young adults, most of whom have East African origins, were recognized at the graduation ceremony for completing a monthlong East African Junior Police academy. Forty had signed up for the program, and 12 were absent at Saturday's ceremony. The St. Paul Police Department regularly holds citizen academies, including those for youth, but this was the first one geared toward East African youth. One of the academy's four female graduates, Faisa Mohamed, 18, said Kadra Mohamed will serve as a role model for young Somali-American women who perhaps had not considered becoming an officer until now, in part because of cultural differences. Intisam Moosa, another academy graduate, said: "Now if (female Somalis) see her, they will think, 'What makes her any different than me?' " Source:
  21. Residents of Nairobi's Mathare slum, one of the largest in Kenya. Here, scores of NGOs and community based organisations are trying to improve the plight of the poor who live here. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS NAIROBI, Feb 26 2014 (IPS) - Ben Okoth, 45, was born and raised in Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa, situated just outside of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. Over the years, he has encountered many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working to improve the plight of the poor who live here. But, Okoth says, there also those NGOs that have done nothing more than use the slum as a “money-minting machine”. “They often rent a small structure and write the name of the organisation on the door. Then they disappear. The next time you see them, they will be accompanied by white people and they will be telling them [about the] great things they have been doing in the slum,” he tells IPS. Many of these NGOs are locally referred to here as “briefcase” NGOs because they are not operational. Statistics from the Kibera Law Centre, Kibera’s centre for legal aid and human rights, show that despite the presence of a number of NGOs here, living conditions remain arduous for many. A single toilet in Kibera serves 1,300 people. It’s this ineffectiveness of NGOs in the East African nation that the producers of a new television show, The Samaritans, have been poking fun at lately. “The Samaritans is a comedy series centred on the absurdities of one dysfunctional NGO. The setting for The Samaritans is the Aid for Aid Kenya field office,” Hussein Kurji, a producer of the show, tells IPS. “The main characters are the staff who have to deal with the odd demands and decisions of the head United Kingdom Aid for Aid office and hopelessly inept local bureaucrats, while trying to write as many useless reports as possible, all under the guise of ‘saving’ Africa,” he says. Although the show is yet to air on television and only two episodes are available online for rent, it has become popular locally and internationally. “It is very funny, I laughed so much. But what I did not like is that the employees who say they are trying to help us poor people are just playing games,” Okoth says. He’s not the only person who finds the show funny. “It has received over 150,000 hits in the last 14 days across Vimeo and YouTube and 90,000 hits for the show’s trailer on YouTube alone,” Kurji says. Mary Anne Karani, who works for a local NGO, is one of those fans. “What Scott [the Aid for Aid Kenya director] says is typical NGO language, so much jargon basically saying nothing in particular. We spend the whole day in meetings in five-star hotels talking about big things like capacity building, empowering, alleviate and so on. It all sounds good on the tongue and looks good on paper, but that’s where it stops,” she tells IPS. Kurji says that The Samaritans was inspired by such discrepancies. “Friends and associates kept talking about the bureaucracy and ineptness at the aid offices they were working in, so I decided to pay closer attention which resulted in some serious discussions about aid and development.” Over the course of a number of years Salim Keshavjee, producer and director of the pilot episode, and Kurji continued to pay attention to the NGO world in Kenya. “The stories from NGOs in Kenya were absurd and it got me thinking. There really is no better way to talk about such social subjects than comedy. We set out to put these two worlds together as entertainment, as TV and Film producers that is our primary goal, to bring new and engaging characters and worlds to life,” Kurji explains. The NGOs Coordination Board, the state’s NGOs regulatory body, shows that the NGO sector has been growing at the rate of 400 organisations per year over the last decade. The most recent statistics are from 2009, which show that 6,075 organisations were registered in this East African nation that year. But as the sector grows, so does the controversy over the real impact it has on the lives of those they claim to work for. Javas Bigambo, an analyst with Interthoughts Consulting, a governance, leadership and policy consultancy, says that the situation is largely due to the fact that most NGOs here are owned by individuals who “have perfected dependency on donor aid as a cash cow for their survival.” “The most ineffective NGOs are those working in the area of governance and access to justice, which is controlled by about 30 people with intricate networks and whose endorsement is a guarantee for funding. At the moment, it is difficult to trace the impact chain of NGOs in the governance sector, yet they net about six million dollars annually for projects,” Bigambo says. Bigambo says that NGOs in the governance sector “call for reforms and accountability, but they are the ones in urgent need of reform.” “This sector is characterised by swindling of funds, tribalism, inaccuracy in reporting, and the actors are driven by private or foreign interests so as to access funding and not public interest,” he says. According to the NGOs Coordination Board, in 2003 NGOs contributed an estimated 926 million dollars to the economy through taxes and deductions through the National Social Security Fund. However, the board says that it has had difficulties in tracing NGOs’ contribution to the economy, thanks to the low compliance in submission of returns as well as the filing of inaccurate data. Vincent Kimosop, the director of local NGO the International Institute of Legislative Affairs, tells IPS that The Samaritans may not be too off the mark. “There are indeed NGOs who have the wrong agenda and they cannot even show their impact.” But Kimosop says that international donors are largely to blame for the situation. “Donors are funding the wrong things. They need to provide funding based on the challenges that are facing people on the ground, not based on their own interests,” he says. Bigambo is quick to point to the contribution NGOs have made in the country, particularly with providing basic services as well as the advancement of human rights. “NGOs and their interventions are spread across sectors, from health, to agriculture, research, governance, education, environment and the impact cannot be overlooked. But many have failed,” he says. The government has recently drafted the Public Benefit Organisations (PBOs) Act 2013, which seeks to advance a new legal, regulatory and institutional framework for PBOs in Kenya — one of its goals is to cut back foreign funding to local NGOs. But while many agree that there is need to regulate the NGO sector, Bigambo says the act is punitive and ill advised. “There are other ways to reform the governance sector in the NGO world. Generally, NGOs in all sectors employ hundreds of thousands of Kenyans, and help to boost farming technology, food security and disease control. The PBO Act will be very counterproductive,” he says. But Kurji says that The Samaritans is not just a laughing matter. “We hope that people can see that Kenya is more than the ‘slums and guns’ story we always hear in the media, especially internationally. That there are also good ideas and good quality productions and acting available from Kenya,” Kurji says, adding that there are plans to broadcast the show on both local and international television stations.
  22. On a hot dry Saturday afternoon, as I waited for clearance to visit an al-Shabab area in Bulo Mareer in Somalia, my phone rang. It was a contact saying there was a gathering I would want to attend. And so I did. Sitting under the shade of mango trees were clan elders and the who's who of al-Shabab, the hardline rebel group fighting Somalia's UN-backed government. This was an opportunity not many get, so I began taking photos. The mood in the meeting was tense, the topic contentious. It was about a land feud between rival clan fighters. Hosting the peace talks was Sheikh Mohamed Abu Abdallah, a short, stocky figure with a sparse goatee who likes to wear Shalwar Kurta – a two-piece garment commonly worn in Afghanistan and south-central Asia. The Sheikh is the rebel group's lower Shabelle governor and the face of al-Qaeda in the province. As soon as I walked into the gathering I spotted something unexpected - a gleaming new iPad. This piece of technology was being used by men who belong to a group that recently banned access to the internet through mobile devices. Every few minutes the Sheikh typed fiercely as he took minutes of the talks. He would occasionally refer to it to read notes of previous agreements. And as they delivered their long grievance speeches, the elders also took turns to cast admiring glances towards the gadget, as Abu Abdallah type their words. Sitting alongside him was Sheikh Ali Dheere – the most widely known face of al-Qaeda in Somalia. Even he had the iPad in his sights. Members of al-Shabab are known to be tech-savvy, with some having Facebook and Twitter accounts. However, they often minimise their use of gadgets for safety reasons - top members have been targeted and killed in drone strikes. About three hours later the talks concluded, with the agreement safely typed into the iPad. Early next morning and now with full clearance, I went to visit farms less than 10km from the frontlines between the rebel group and the government. There I bumped into the governor. Instead of being armed with an AK-47, the governor packed an iPad, with which he took pictures and video of an irrigation canal that was being constructed. There was no security detail in sight. Just him, his iPad and his three-door car. It was a surprise. IPads can be used to track people if they are connected to the internet or geo-location services, and this man was undoubtedly a high-value target. "It is safe like this but if you connect it to the internet it is not," he said. "I don't use it to access the internet." Some apps are "too dangerous" to download. Whatsapp and Skype are very useful to have but a no-no unless a fighter wants to fall victim to the "birds in the sky", according to him. But he had one issue with his iPad and it had nothing to do with safety - the battery life is poor. For a man who says he spends many hours or days away from electricity sources the 10 hours is not enough. They should have batteries that last a week, he told, me before driving off into the distance with his iPad to his next appointment. Hamza Mohamed Hamza Mohamed is a producer for Doha, Qatar-based Al Jazeera English, covering Sub-Saharan Africa. source:
  23. Somalia stands out among the countries where Turkey has sought to employ “soft power” as part of its “active” foreign policy. Public conscience is easy to mobilize for Somalia, a country that has become synonymous with hunger, and that is what Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan took advantage of on Aug. 19, 2011, when he landed in Mogadishu on a humanitarian aid mission as Turks back home resisted their own hunger during the Ramadan fast. The timing was poignant and coupled with intense publicity about Erdogan being the first foreign leader to visit Somalia in a number of years. Turkey’s Red Crescent and the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), backed by a number of civil groups, embarked on such an extensive aid campaign that international actors could not help but wonder, “What are the Turks after?” Today, Turkey’s high profile in Somalia is fading with an equally striking symbolism. Reuters reported on Feb. 14 that Ankara had cut its $4.5 million in monthly cash assistance to the Somali government at the end of 2013. Everyone’s attention turned, however, not to the aid cut itself, but to another detail in the story: The aid had been delivered to the Somalis by hand, in boxes of cash. The reason for this selective focus is obvious: The box emerged as the symbol of anti-government criticism in Turkey after Dec. 17, when police discovered millions of dollars stashed in shoe boxes in the home of Suleyman Aslan, the chief executive officer of Halkbank and one of the suspects arrested in the massive corruption probe targeting cabinet ministers. Abdisalam Omer, former central bank governor in Somalia, told Reuters that he would go once a month to Turkey’s Mogadishu embassy to collect the $4.5 million in boxes full of cash. “It was always in $100 bills,” he said. Given that the Somali government’s 2014 budget stands at $218 million, the impact of Turkey's aid cut will be significant. Some $91 million of the country's budget is provided by foreign donors. Citing Turkish officials, Reuters said Ankara had no immediate plans to resume the payments. Nevertheless, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud could well count on Gulf money to make up for the gap. Unlike Turkey, the Gulf states are much more discrete in the assistance they provide. A Turkish Foreign Ministry official contacted by Al-Monitor commented on the issue, stating, “The Reuters story is partially accurate. It’s true that Turkey provided direct cash assistance to Somalia and that this assistance was officially part of the budget. The aid was delivered in cash by hand because no banking services are available. The inaccurate element in the report is this: Turkey has not cut all assistance. Turkey will continue to provide technical support in 2014. Work is currently under way to outline the scope of technical assistance.” Turkey's Foreign Ministry denied that it had stopped aid to Somalia over allegations of graft. It said in a statement that Turkey had sent cash to Somalia between June and December 2013 following a request from the Somali president for help with his country's budget deficit. Like the ministry official, the statement acknowledged the money was delivered in cash because the Somali banking system was not working. Al-Shabab threat and corruption According to Turkish officials, the direct assistance ended because the relevant agreement between the two countries expired. Yet other reasons come to mind. First, similar to the experience of Western governments, Turkey’s confidence in the Somali administration might have been shaken when Yussur Abrar, governor of the central bank, resigned after only seven weeks in the post, citing pressure on her to sign off on some dubious deals. Second, Turkey extended support to the Somali government in a much more transparent manner than most other countries, and in doing so, attracted the ire of the Islamist al-Shabab group. A suicide bombing at the Turkish Embassy last July 27 claimed three lives, among them a Turkish policeman's, and left nine people wounded, including three other Turkish police officers. In claiming responsibility, al-Shabab accused Turkey of being among the countries that “support the apostate regime [in Somalia] and seek to suppress the Sharia order.” That was not the first such attack. On April 15, five Somali relief workers had been killed and four Turks wounded when a Turkish Red Crescent convoy came under attack. On May 25, 2012, a Turkish businessman was murdered in a hotel in Mogadishu, and in October 2011, al-Shabab targeted public buildings in Mogadishu, killing 70 students waiting in line to receive the results of their Turkish scholarship applications. Attracting too much attention Africa analyst Rashid Abdi told Reuters that Somali’s Islamist president, Mohamud, could easily find another Middle Eastern partner to quietly extend his country support. He also made an interesting observation about Ankara: “Turkey, for all its faults, was pretty transparent in its budgetary support for Somalia compared to other Muslim countries." Turkish government officials are inclined to explain al-Shabab’s attacks as the ploy of certain foreign powers disturbed by Turkey’s Africa opening. The argument is also endorsed by Serdar Cam, the head of TIKA, which has won kudos for its sustainable aid operations in the country. In remarks to Al-Monitor, Cam said that proposed joint operations had been proposed by some countries that did not want to lag behind Turkey in providing assistance but had not been able to access certain areas due to security risks. TIKA, however, prefers to operate either on its own or in cooperation with other Turkish relief organizations, he said. Cam proudly recounted his organization's Somalia operations, which extend beyond the delivery of hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid. “Animals would often turn up on the runway at Mogadishu’s airport in the past. We fenced and modernized the airport, making night flights possible. We have built a 23-kilometer [14-mile] asphalt road in the capital,” he said. “We are training Somalis how to cultivate their fertile lands, guided by the principle ‘to teach man to fish rather than to give him a fish.’ We have built a hospital with a 200-bed capacity. We have also set up a field hospital, where Turkish doctors examine 1,200 people per day. We have drilled scores of water wells. In Somaliland, we are involved also in the restoration of Ottoman era historic buildings.” Besides TIKA, such public institutions as the Housing Development Administration, the Religious Affairs Directorate, Turkish Airlines and the Red Crescent have been involved in the effort in Somalia. Significant assistance has also been provided by civil groups, such as the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), Yeryüzü Doktorları (Doctors Worldwide), Kimse Yok Mu (Is Anybody There), Deniz Feneri (Lighthouse) and Sadakataşı (Charity Stone). Cam underscored that Turkey’s aid to Somalia has been driven only by humanitarian concerns, with no ulterior motives in regard to the country’s rich underground resources. He conceded, however, that the delivery of humanitarian assistance was potentially opening trade and investment channels for Turkish business people. Blowback of political ambitions The primary factor that could potentially snag Turkey’s much-praised humanitarian operations in the region is a relapse in its “political ambitions” over time. Existing or potential perceptions that Turkey gets involved in domestic political calculations in the countries it assists arouse certain sensitivities. Somalia is the first country in which Turkish humanitarian assistance has been met with violence. This should serve as an “early warning” for Ankara to review what is going wrong and to take appropriate measures. Another difficulty concerns Turkey's need to institutionalize its African opening. Both civil and governmental bodies are confronted with this challenge. The humanitarian aid efforts began long before the diplomatic opening and helped paved the way for the Turkish state to gain access to new areas. The number of Turkish embassies in Africa have increased, from 12 to 35, in the four years since 2009. A diplomatic expansion on such a scale also requires qualified human capital to fully assess risks and develop policies. Yet, Turkey’s civil and governmental staffs are both primarily groping along in their attempts to move forward. It would not be an exaggeration to conclude that Turkey’s capacity to respond in the face of adverse reactions is far from matching its ambitions for expansion. Fehim Taştekin is a columnist and chief editor of foreign news at the Turkish newspaper Radikal, based in Istanbul. He is the host of a fortnightly program called "Dogu Divanı" on IMC TV. He is an analyst specializing in Turkish foreign policy and Caucasus, Middle East and EU affairs. He was founding editor of Agency Caucasus. Source:
  24. (Somalia Online) - Former President of Puntland, Abdirahman Mohamud Faroole, is said to be in Nairobi for a private summit with the international community about Somalia’s future. According to reliable sources close to the former President, the European Union and other Western representatives invited President Faroole to Nairobi for a private discussion about Somalia’s future and how he can take part in the efforts to take the country out of the current turmoil. The tough talking former President who is credited with crushing Puntland’s own version of Al-Shabab, and eliminating the region’s piracy hubs is seen by the international community as a strong contender suitable for a stint in federal politics. “The president gave his opinion on what is happening and how he thinks the country’s problems can be fixed” said a source close to the former President. “Faroole made it clear that the nation needs a tough leadership able to sincerely tackle the Al-shabaab problem.” The former Puntland President is said to have told Western representatives that he would only be interested in federal politics if there was a high level of autonomy for the implementation of his policies, free from foreign interference. Sources close the President said that the President will take his time before making a decision to enter Somali politics again. The former President who led the autonomous region of Puntland for five years, was widely praised as a democrat for his smooth handover of power after losing his re-election bid by one single vote. He lost the election to Somalia’s former Prime Minister, Abdiweli Ali Gas. News Snippet
  25. After decades of conflict that have nearly destroyed the nation, Somalia now stands poised to make a final drive with international assistance to shatter the strength of radical al-Qaeda-associated Islamists in central and southern Somalia, but there are indications that Somalia’s leaders may be posing an even greater obstacle to Somalia’s successful reconstruction. Arms Embargoes and Missing Weapons In mid-February, the UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group issued a report to the UN Security Council’s sanctions committee claiming that weapons obtained by the Somali government under a temporary easing of UN arms sanctions were being sold to Somalia’s al-Shabaab extremists in what was described as “high-level and systematic abuses in weapons and ammunition management and distribution” (Reuters, February 13). A UN arms embargo was placed on Somalia in 1992, but in the last year the Somali government has been able to obtain once-restricted small arms and other weapons such as rocket-propelled-grenades under a partial lifting of the embargo designed to help fight al-Shabaab terrorists. Among the observations contained in the report were the following: Shipments of weapons from Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda could not be accounted for. The Somali government cancelled several UN inspections of armories A key presidential adviser from President Hassan Shaykh Mohamud’s own Abgaal sub-clan was involved in planning weapons transfers to al-Shabaab commander Shaykh Yusuf Isse “Kabukatukade,” another member of the Abgaal. A government minister from the Habr Gadir sub-clan made unauthorized weapons purchases from a Gulf state that were transferred to private locations in Mogadishu for use by a Habr Gadir clan militia. The Monitoring team photographed rifles sent to Somalia’s national army for sale in the Mogadishu arms market with their serial numbers filed off (Reuters, February13; AFP, February 16). The easing of the Somali arms embargo is scheduled to end in March. Though a final decision on its future has yet to be made, it seems likely that the easing will remain in place until a new report on arms violations is due in October. The Somali government is looking for a complete removal of the embargo, allowing it to obtain heavy weapons and sophisticated military materiel (Reuters, February 14). The Monitoring Group has recommended either the full restoration of the embargo or a heightened monitoring regime to accompany an extension of the partial easement. Somali security officials have complained that the UN monitors have not provided them with any information regarding the alleged arms sales to al-Shabaab or the alleged activities of insiders [from the President's clan] at the presidential palace arranging such arms sales. One security official complained that the UN allegations could not be proven without examining al-Shabaab’s arms: “If they haven’t inspected al-Shabaab’s [arms], how are they arriving at the conclusion government weapons are being sold to al-Shabaab. This is a dangerous and creative position by the UN” (Suna Times/, February 18). The head of Somalia’s military, General Dahir Aden Elmi “Indhaqarshe” described the UN report as fabricated, false and without credibility, though he acknowledged an investigation into how al-Shabaab obtains its arms would be worthwhile, as the movement “does not get arms from the sky.” However, the Somali army commander sees darker purposes behind the work of the UN monitors: “The UN Monitoring Group want al-Shabaab to be an endless project in order to gain funds from the world while they are struggling hard to make Somalia’s government weak and nonfunctional” (Raxanreeb, February 17). Shady Dealings and Economic Challenges Some light was shed on the murky financial dealings of Somalia’s central government when central bank governor Yussur Abrar quit after only seven weeks on the job following repeated efforts to force her to approve dubious transactions benefiting members and friends of the government. In her resignation letter to Somali President Hassan Shaykh Mohamud, Abrar described corruption and constant government interference in Central Bank operations” From the moment I was appointed, I have continuously been asked to sanction deals and transactions that would contradict my personal values and violate my fiduciary responsibility to the Somali people as head of the nation's monetary authority… The message that I have received from multiple parties is that I have to be flexible, that I don't understand the Somali way, that I cannot go against your [Mohamud’s] wishes, and that my own personal security would be at risk as a result (Suna Times, October 30, 2013). Turkey has been the main supporter of Somali reconstruction, offering technical support, materials, medical teams, hospitals, machinery and various other means of assistance, including, apparently, lots of cash. A recent Reuters report cited various officials within the Turkish and Somali governments that Ankara had decided in December to stop its direct financial support to Mogadishu, which took the form of $4.5 million in U.S. $100 dollar bills transferred to the Somali central bank every month (Reuters, February 13). However, three days later, the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the payments were in line with procedure in light of the fact Somalia has no banking services and that efforts were “underway to provide budget support to the Somali Federal Government in the year 2014” (Hurriyet, February 16). The Turkish statement did not outline what measures, if any, were taken to trace the end use of these funds, but the potential for abuse is apparent in the absence of verifiable banking and accounting procedures in Mogadishu. Over two decades of social and political chaos mean that the challenges to Somalia’s reconstruction efforts only begin with the elimination of al-Shabaab: Somalia lacks trade agreements with the West, lacks a proper certificatory regime and is not a member of the World Trade Organization, making exports difficult. The vast bulk of Somalia’s current exports consist of charcoal and livestock heading to the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen. Multiple currencies are in circulation, some of them worthless. Monetary control remains elusive with no new official bank-notes having been printed since the overthrow of Siad Barre in 1991, leading to a thriving black market in currency. The national government has begun signing oil and gas deals that are in conflict with deals signed by regional administrations like Puntland during the absence of an effective central government. (IRIN, February 14). AMISOM Operations: Fighting Somalia’s War The growing deployment of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), now 22,000 strong, includes troops from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone, as well as police from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Uganda. While Ethiopia has continued to mount its own independent military operations in regions of Somalia bordering Ethiopia since its general withdrawal from Somalia in 2009, lack of coordination with AMISOM tended to give al-Shabaab militants space to withdraw and operate elsewhere until Ethiopian operations were concluded. It was therefore regarded as good news when Ethiopia decided to integrate its Somali operations into the AMISOM command in January [Dalsan Radio [Mogadishu], February 18). Ethiopian forces followed their integration by deploying to Beledweyne in Hiraan Region (where they are establishing a new base) and to Baidoa in Bay Region, where they will be responsible for security operations in the Bay, Bakool and Gedo Regions (Shabelle Media Network [Mogadishu], January 28). Uganda, which has roughly 8,000 troops in Somalia, has just rotated in 1,600 fresh troops under Colonel William Bainomugisha (Xinhua, February 14). The Somali army is about to launch new operations in cooperation with AMISOM forces to re-take Bardhere in the Juba River valley and the last major port under al-Shabaab control, Barawe, which has also acted as an important headquarters and training base for the militants since the loss of Kismayo to Kenyan troops (Garowe Online, February 11;, February 11). If successful, this new offensive would divide Shabaab forces, significantly reduce the area under its control and eliminate the movement’s last major source of revenue. Unfortunately, rather than align for a final push against the militants, some units of the Somali Army in the Lower Shabelle region have been using their new arms to fight each other, based on clan allegiances (Shabelle Media Network, January 28; January 30; Garowe Online, January 29). According to AMISOM spokesman Colonel Ali Aden Humad (part of the Djiboutian contingent of 960 troops deployed in Hiraan Region), the offensive will suffer from a lack of naval forces (suggesting Kenya will continue its policy of consolidating the area it has taken in southern Somalia rather than move further north) and helicopters, which AMISOM hopes will still arrive from some African Union country. Most important, however, is the failure of the Somali Army to build up a force as large as AMISOM that could not only participate in operations in a meaningful way, but also undertake important garrison and consolidation duties that must now be carried out by AMISOM forces. Colonel Humad admitted it was a mystery that the national army remained small despite years of international training programs and funding: “AMISOM trained many Somali soldiers and equipped some. So, the question is where have they gone? When we train them, we turn them over to the government. So, where do they go? Where are they kept?” (Sabahi, February 7). Al-Shabaab Leaders Go to Ground The continuing American drone campaign in Somalia is a major concern for al-Shabaab, which has seen several senior members targeted and killed in the last year. The movement has responded with mass arrests of suspected spies believed to help in the targeting, including a number of al-Shabaab fighters. The drone strikes have also damaged communications within al-Shabaab and restricted the movements of its leaders, with many senior members, including al-Shabaab leader Abdi Godane, believing that contact with mobile communications equipment can be tracked to target drone strikes. Like the Somali army, there is infighting within al-Shabaab, which might divide into smaller groups if Godane is killed. Having narrowly survived at least two recent attempts on his life, Godane is reported to have even grown suspicious of his own bodyguards in al-Shabaab’s Amniyat intelligence unit (Sabahi, February 7). Al-Shabaab has actually succeeded in intimidating a major Somali telecommunications provider to cut internet service in southern Somalia to prevent any type of communications with U.S. or AMISOM intelligence groups (Suna Times, February 10). Last October, the United States began deploying a number of military trainers and advisors in Somalia. Conclusion Despite disappearing arms and soldiers and the distractions provided by incessant clan warfare, Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Shaykh Ahmad Muhammad says that, with international assistance, “The plan is to have al-Shabaab out of the areas that they control by the end of 2014” (Xinhua, February 19). Meanwhile, the insurgency continues to wreak havoc across parts of central and southern Somalia. New UN figures indicate that two million Somalis (of 10 million) suffer from food insecurity, with 850,000 of those “in desperate need of food.” Most of the latter have been displaced by fighting and insecurity (Independent, February 19). In recent days, al-Shabaab attacks in Mogadishu and its airport have been on the rise, including a February 13 suicide bomb that killed seven just outside of Mogadishu’s Aden Adde airport, which also serves as a secure base for AMISOM and foreign diplomats (, February 13; Reuters, February 13). Eliminating the Shabaab threat will remain impossible no matter what degree of international assistance and funding is provided so long as service in national and local administrations in Somalia is seen as a means for personal self-enrichment and the furtherance of clan interests at the expense of national interests. Ultimately, the path Somalia will follow will depend not on UN assistance or AU military deployments, but rather on the interest Somalis themselves have in the national project. Andrew McGregor is the Senior Editor of Global Terrorism Analysis and the Director of Aberfoyle International Security, a Toronto-based agency specializing in security issues related to the Islamic world. Source: