Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Somali diplomat gives up Kenyan passport

Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Somali diplomat gives up Kenyan passport
Somali diplomat gives up Kenyan passport
By NATION Reporter Posted Wednesday, May 20 2009
A Kenyan passport issued to Mr Hassan Sheikh Aden Issak has been withdrawn. Immigration and Registration of Persons minister Otieno Kajwang’ said the Somali diplomat had become a Kenyan citizen by registration when he was issued the passport.
However, Sheikh Aden was appointed a diplomat when the Somali government was installed. “We realised he had a Kenyan passport when his name registered in our systems when he returned to the country, and withdrew it. He had not even renounced his Kenyan citizenship,” Mr Kajwang’ said.
Dual citizenship
The minister told the Nation in his Nyayo House office in Nairobi that Sheikh Aden’s children had also become Kenyan citizens. He said since the law currently does not allow dual citizenship, his ministry usually confiscates Kenyan passports.Mr Kajwang’ said his ministry also discovered a number of Somalis who had acquired genuine Kenyan travel documents as they were just about to board a plane to their destinations. “We refused them exit after we realised they were not Kenyans but Somalis from Somaliland.” Somaliland is an autonomous region in Somalia.
The minister said his ministry was facing challenges using birth certificates and national IDs as primary documents for the issuance of national passports. Following reforms in the ministry, Mr Kajwang’ said, it now took three days for one to renew a passport, and 14 days for fresh applicants to acquire one.
He said it took 20 days for applicants in Nairobi to acquire national ID cards, 30 days for those living in non-border areas and 40 days for those coming from border regions. The minister regretted that many eligible Kenyans were yet to apply for national IDs even though there was no backlog.

Somali football team to get teenagers off the Cambridge Estate

Somali football team to get teenagers off the Cambridge Estate
18th May 2009
By David Lindsell »
Somali teenagers have started a five-a-side football team to keep them out of trouble and improve their footballing skills.
The 16 to 25 year olds approached Somali community organisers asking them to help set up a club.
The project is set to be awarded £750 by Kingston Town Centre councillors this week toward pitch hire, coaching, publicity and football equipment.
Organiser Mohammed Ali said: "They hang around the Cambridge Estate and we feel that we have to keep them off the estates and give them something to do.
"They are good players. Some have experience but the others are getting healthy through it. They do like to show off their skills."
The 54-year-old said his legs would no longer stretch to training with the team on Saturday afternoons at Kingsmeadow but he hoped to build a squad of 22 players for an 11-a-side team.
While the Kingston Somali football team goes from strength to strength, the national team has struggled in recent years because of the ongoing civil war. Their star striker Ayub Daud plays for Juventus but the Somalis are forced to play all their games away from home.
The Kingston Somali Community Association was set up in December 2006 with an office in the United Reformed Church offering advice and assistance.

Somaliland clans in ceasefire over disputed farmland

Somaliland clans in ceasefire over disputed farmland
KALABAIDH, 20 May 2009 - Two clans in Somaliland's Elberdale farmland in Gabiley region, who have fought intermittently in the past five months over disputed farmland, have agreed a ceasefire, a mediator said.
(Photo: Abdirahman Warsame, a member of the mediation committee seeking to reconcile the two clans)
Abdirahman Warsame, a member of the Somaliland's Guurti mediation committee, told IRIN on 17 May that 25 elders from each clan had sworn to end fighting and to reconcile the two clans.
However, talks aimed at resolving the dispute, which started in mid-April between the Hared and the Nour clans, are ongoing in Kalabait.
The government sent military and police troops to Elberdale last month in a bid to stop the fighting.
On 14 May, elders visited patients admitted to hospital in Gabiley and Dila areas who had been injured in previous fighting over the Elberdale farmland.
"We went to Gabiley Hospital and to Dila Hospital to see all those who were injured in the conflict; we also ascertained the number of those who have died," Aden Elabe, one of the elders, told IRIN.
Elabe said the team of elders also visited areas where farmers from Elberdale had fled, such as Geed Diqsi, Jaldhabaha, Satile and Da'walay, to reassure them the conflict would be resolved.
However, local officials have expressed concern over farmers missing the present planting season.
Elabe Mohamoud Hufane, the mayor of Dila district in Awdal region, said: "This is the season when farmers grow sorghum and maize but here in Dila district, we have more than 120 families who fled the conflict in early April and are yet to return to their farms in Burdi and Geed Diqsi areas."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Israel 'deaf' to two-state solution

Medeshi May 19, 2009
Israel 'deaf' to two-state solution
US calls for a two-state solution "fell on deaf ears", the Palestinians' chief negotiator with Israel has said.
Speaking to Al Jazeera on Tuesday, the day after the first official meeting between Barack Obama, the US president, and Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, Saeb Erekat indicated that Palestinians had low expectations of the outcome.
In their talks in Washington, Obama told Netanyahu to stop expanding Jewish settlements and grasp the "historic opportunity" to make peace with the Palestinians.
"We appreciate very much what Mr Obama said ... [But] I'm sure this fell on deaf ears. Mr Netanyahu will continue to be in a state of denial," Erekat told Al Jazeera.
"He will not accept the two-state solution, he will not accept agreements signed. He will continue with settlement activities and he thinks he can beat about the bush by more vagueness and linguistics and public relations campaigns."
In four hours of talks with Obama, Netanyahu refused to publicly commit to an independent Palestinian state.
He told Obama that Israel was "ready" to resume negotiations with the Palestinians, which stalled during Israel's 22-day offensive in the Gaza Strip, but avoided endorsing the two-state solution.
"If we resume negotiations then I think the Palestinians will have to recognise Israel as a Jewish state and also enable Israel to have the means to defend itself," Netanyahu said.
Following the meeting, Netanyahu said: "I did not say two states for two peoples."
He also said that Israel did not want to govern the Palestinians.
"We want them to govern themselves [minus] a handful of powers that could endanger the state of Israel," Netanyau said.
But Erekat rejected this as rhetoric.
"Really, when he [Netanyahu] says that he wants Palestinians to govern themselves by themselves - Mr Netanyahu I have a question for you: How can I govern myself by myself under your wall, settlements, incursions, assasinations, roadblocks?" he told Al Jazeera.
'Nothing but wishes'
Hamas, the Palestinian faction that controls the Gaza Strip, was sceptical of the meeting, saying it offered nothing new.
"The statements by Obama are nothing but wishes on which we do not much count," Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said in a statement.
He said that statements by Obama that "are not accompanied by pressure on the Zionist occupation and concrete measures do not reflect a radical change of American policy toward our people".
Sherine Tadross, Al Jazeera's correspondent reporting from Jerusalem, said that Israel officially remained up beat about the meeting but that the press saw the two leaders as finding little common ground.
"The official line is that it was a very good meeting, that there was a lot of chemistry between the two leaders and there were a lot of common interests expressed ... now that is a world apart from how the Israeli press has read the situation," she said.
"Certainly, it seems, the line that is often given to US presidents by Israeli leaders - 'listen I need more time because domestically I'm not in a situation where I can press my fragile coalition government to dismantle settlements and establish a two state solution' - was not bought by Obama."
Settlement concerns
Despite Obama's call for a halt to settlement building, there were reports that Israel was moving ahead with construction of a new settlement on the east side of the West Bank, where Israeli officials have already issued tenders for housing units in the area.
David Elhaiini, a local Israeli government official, said the timing of the construction was not intended to make a political point as it was initially approved in 2008 by Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, the Associated Press news agency reported.
The Palestinians say settlements, which the World Court has deemed illegal, could deny them a viable state.
Netanyahu and Obama also discussed the issue of Iran's nuclear programme, which the West and Israel believe is a disguised weapons drive but which Iran says is for purely civilian purposes.
Obama warned that the US was "not going to have talks forever" on the issue, but reinforced his earlier position that he offered an "outstretched hand" to Tehran.
Netanyahu, speaking separately to reporters, insisted that Israel "reserves its right to defend itself".

AusAID: Australian Assistance to Somalia

AusAID: Australian Assistance to Somalia
May 19, 2009
Australia will provide $2 million to support efforts to restore peace to Somalia after almost two decades of conflict and humanitarian crises.
The United Nations estimates that over half the population of Somalia is in need of humanitarian assistance and that one in six Somali children under five is acutely malnourished.
Essential services have collapsed and around 1.3 million Somalis are displaced.
Australia will contribute:
- $1.5 million to the United Nations Humanitarian Appeal
- $500,000 to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
The UN's humanitarian appeal for Somalia is 70 per cent underfunded - the worst shortfall of any UN appeal. This is having a major adverse impact on the provision of essential services, including education and health, to Somalis affected by conflict, economic collapse and famine.
Maternal and infant mortality rates are amongst the highest in the world, and women and children are most vulnerable to violence. Australia's contribution to UN agencies will support vital health services for women and children, and security for humanitarian workers so that they can deliver aid to the people who most need it.
Australia's contribution will also support AMISOM's operations in Somalia, including the provision of medical support and supplies to local communities.
Australia commends the African Union for its commitment to improving security in Somalia through AMISOM and contributing to the improvement of the humanitarian situation. It faces a challenging mission helping Somalia's Transitional Government stabilise the situation in the country and has paid a heavy price in the lives of personnel lost on duty.
Resolution of the conflict in Somalia is essential to relieve the humanitarian crisis and strengthen stability in the Horn of Africa. It will help tackle the root causes of Somalia-based piracy, which continues to threaten shipping and maritime security in the Gulf of Aden and off the East African coast.

Eritrea awards more mining licences

Eritrea awards more mining licences
Tue May 19, 2009
By Andrew Cawthorne
ASMARA (Reuters) - Eritrea said on Tuesday eight more foreign firms had entered its mining sector with a clutch of new exploration licences in a nation seen on the cusp of a minerals boom that could motor its needy economy.
Alem Kibreab, director general of mines for the Energy and Mines Ministry, added the Horn of Africa nation's first and flagship project -- the Bisha mine -- should start producing gold by the third quarter of 2010.
"Despite its small size, Eritrea is going to be on the map of mining countries," he told Reuters, adding that reserves identified so far were only the "tip of the iceberg."
Foreign miners agree on the potential, but Eritrea insists the sector must be developed slowly and carefully to prevent the so-called "resources curse" where oil and minerals have spawned corruption and violence elsewhere in Africa.
A new round of licences awarded earlier this year had brought the total number of foreign companies exploring or about to explore in Eritrea to 14, Alem said.
He named the newcomers as Britain's Andiamo Exploration and London Africa; China's Land and Energy and Zhongchang Mining; the Eritrean-Libyan Mining Share; Australia's South Boulder and Gippsland; and India's Spice Minerals.
Gold, copper, zinc and potash are the main interest.
"We know that the juniors are the ones who aggressively come for exploration," he said. "We are comfortable not only with the size but the diversification of countries."
Eritrea's most advanced project, run by Canada's Nevsun Resources Ltd with a 40 percent stake for the state, is Bisha. Its 27 million tonnes of ore are believed to contain 1 million ounces of gold, 700-800 million lb of copper and 1 billion lb of zinc.
"Construction has started. Most of the workers' quarters are ready. We strongly believe that by the third quarter of 2010, we will start production," Alem said, adding that feasibility and environment impact studies had been lengthy.
For the first two-and-a-half years it will produce gold, with output of 450,000 ounces a year expected. Then it will turn to copper, followed by zinc in a probable 10-year life.
"Bisha is unique. You rarely find a project with gold on top, then copper, then zinc, like that," Alem said.
"If we get the gold price at today's price, it will be beneficial, obviously," he said, adding the mine was planned with a lower price of between $400-600 an ounce in mind.
Next up will be the Zara project, run by Australia's Sub-Sahara Resources, and the Asmara belt, headed by Canada's Sunridge.
Zara is believed to hold 1 million ounces of gold.
Asmara belt has some 70 million tonnes of ore thought to contain between 500,000-1 million ounces of gold, 2 billion lb of zinc and 700-800 million lb of copper, Alem said.
"It is a very difficult time because of the credit crunch. If all goes well, though, we should have feasibility studies finished by 2011 for both, then construction would start, and production would be a year or two years after."
Mining company sources said those targets were not over-ambitious, but may shift according to global economics.
Alem said Eritrea did not have any estimates for total national reserves, but the potential was clear and the economy -- one of the world's smallest -- had much to gain.
"As well as the revenues, it can provide a big support to other sectors," Alem said.
Apart from small-scale, artisan mining and some minor extraction by Italians during the colonial era, Eritrea's mining potential is unexploited. Some bigger miners were scared off by the 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia.
President Isaias Afwerki recently moved long-serving Energy and Mines Minister Tesfai Ghebreselassie to the environment portfolio, replacing him with Ahmed Haj Ali who had been running the fisheries ministry.
Ahmed had experience in the sector from a stint as deputy energy and mines minister, Alem said. And while foreign companies would be reassured by Tesfai's move to the environment, he would be no pushover, he added.
"It is a plus to the industry. That is how the companies take it ... I am sure, though, that he will be even tougher in protecting the environment because a lot of people will say he will have a weakness there. Even when here, he was very strong on the environment."

Ethiopia troops 'back in Somalia'

Medeshi May 19, 2009
Ethiopia troops 'back in Somalia'
Ethiopian military forces have crossed back into Somalia, four months after leaving, witnesses told the BBC.
Their reported return comes as Islamist militants continue to seize towns from the fragile Western-backed government.
One resident said he saw Ethiopian troops digging trenches in Kalabeyr, a town 22km (14 miles) from the Somali-Ethiopian border.
An Ethiopian spokesman denied the reports. Its troops left Somalia in January after two years in the country.
They entered Somalia in 2006 to help oust Islamist forces from the capital Mogadishu but withdrew under a UN-backed peace deal.
“ They stopped me and checked my car and then ordered me to move ” Farah Ahmed Adaan Bus driver
When its troops left, Ethiopia made it clear it did still reserve the right to intervene in Somalia if its interests were directly threatened.
There have been several reports of the Ethiopian military crossing into Somali territory for hot-pursuit operations, or to check vehicles moving in the border area.
The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt in Addis Ababa says the latest reported troop movements may well be part of a similar, limited operation.
But Ethiopian government spokesman Bereket Simon told our correspondent the reports were "fabricated".
He said at the moment they believed events in Somalia presented no immediate threat to Ethiopia and their troops were not contemplating going back there at this point.
However, Kalabeyr resident Fadumo Du'ale told the BBC's Mohamed Olad Hassan on Tuesday: "They have crossed the border late last night and they are here now. They look to be stationing here."
Another resident, Tabane Abdi Ali, told the BBC: "We recognise them because of their military uniform and the language they were speaking."
Bus driver Farah Ahmed Adaan told our correspondent he had spotted "a lot" of Ethiopian troops with 12 military vehicles.
"Some of them were digging trenches while others were guarding the whole area," he said.
"They stopped me and checked my car and then ordered me to move."
On Sunday, fighters from the al-Shabab group, which is linked to al-Qaeda, took the key town of Jowhar from government forces.
This is the home town of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and now that the country's rainy season has arrived, Jowhar is the only passable route into central Somalia from the capital.
Since withdrawing at the beginning of the year, Ethiopian troops have kept up a strong presence along the Somali border.
Ethiopia, a US ally, invaded its war-torn neighbour in December 2006 to prop up the transitional government and initially everything went according to plan.
Rebel resistance melted away before the 3,000-strong Ethiopian advance and the Somali government was able to set up in Mogadishu.
But the government did not extend its control and the Islamists continued to launch deadly attacks on both Ethiopian and Somali government forces.
About 4,300 Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers from the African Union have arrived in Mogadishu, where they have taken up positions vacated by the Ethiopians in January.
But analysts say they are only in effective control of the presidential palace, airport and seaport in Mogadishu, while the Islamist guerrillas control chunks of the capital, along with swathes of central and southern Somalia.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Q&A: Somalia's conflict

Medeshi May 17, 2009
Q&A: Somalia's conflict
Somalia has experienced almost constant conflict since the collapse of its central government in 1991.
It was hoped the election of moderate Islamist Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad as president of a transitional government in January and the departure of Ethiopian troops would stop the violence, but Islamist insurgents are keeping up their almost daily attacks.
Who are the insurgents?
The main fighters are from al-Shabab, a radical faction that emerged from the remnants of the Union of Islamic Courts, routed by the Ethiopian forces that invaded Somalia in 2006.
AU force in Somalia (Amisom) was mandated in January 2007
Supposed to be 8,000-strong but currently has only 4,300 troops
Comprised of soldiers from Uganda and Burundi
Sierra Leone has offered battalion, which would take force over 5,000
Restricted by security situation to operations in Mogadishu
The group, which is on the US terror list and is said to have links with al-Qaeda, now controls much of southern and central Somalia and has imposed strict Sharia law in those areas.
They see President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a former UIC leader, as having sold out for agreeing to head a government backed by the international community.
This view is shared by another group of Islamist fighters - Hisbul-Islam - formed after Mr Ahmed become president in January.
One of its main leaders is Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who together with Mr Ahmed headed the UIC in 2006.
Unlike previous divisions in Somalia, these groups are not based on the clan system.
So what do they want?
Power - so that Somalia is ruled by Sharia.
President Ahmed's recent introduction of Islamic law has not appeased them.
They are followers of the Wahhabi school of Islam, which is based on a more rigid and literal interpretation of Islamic texts, rather than mainstream Sunni faith practised by most Somalis.
The Islamists also want the African Union peacekeepers, based in Mogadishu, to leave.
Mr Aweys, who recently returned from exile, says he will not enter peace talks with the government and his former ally until these "invaders" have gone.
Will the government survive?
Not necessarily. Military and intelligence sources say many government troops have defected to the insurgents.
One assessment reckons the government can only rely on some 4,000 fighters against 6,000 from al-Shabab.
Meanwhile, the AU peacekeepers, in the capital to bolster the government, do not have the mandate to pursue the insurgents.
Only 4,300 troops of a planned 8,000 strong force have deployed.
What is the international response?
There is little appetite for international intervention given Ethiopia's recent experience, which gave rise to the current insurgency.
Ethiopia initially intervened in late 2006 to save the interim government and to prevent the spread of fundamentalist Islam in Africa, a concern shared by America.
But they suffered daily attacks - and at the worst of the fighting the bodies of dead Ethiopian soldiers were dragged through Mogadishu, bringing to mind similar events when the US intervened in the 1990s - made famous by the film Black Hawk Down.
The UN backed the peace process which led to the election of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as president.
In April, the international community pledged more than $200m to Somalia to beef up its security.
Most of this is for the embattled AU to help them with equipment and the training of Somali forces.
They are intended to oversee the creation of 10,000-strong police force and the training of 6,000 soldiers.
How are ordinary people coping?
The latest fighting is said to have forced about 20,000 people from residential areas of the capital, where the battles are being played out by pro-government forces and insurgent groups.
And over the years hundreds of thousands of Somalis have fled to neighbouring countries.
More than one million people, in a nation the UN estimates to be of nine million, are internally displaced.
Drought is further exacerbating the situation, with more than one third of the population reliant on food aid.
Many Somalis depend for their survival on money sent home by their relatives abroad.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Militants take key Somali town, warlord defects

Militants take key Somali town, warlord defects
By Abdi Sheikh and Ibrahim Mohamed
Sunday, May 17, 2009
MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Militant Islamist fighters captured a strategic town north of Mogadishu on Sunday, leaving government forces isolated in pockets of the country's capital and central region after two weeks of heavy clashes.
In a sign of some disarray among militant ranks however, a former warlord and powerful opposition leader defected to the government side over the weekend.
President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's United Nations-backed government -- the 15th attempt to establish central rule -- is struggling like predecessors to contain powerful insurgents, currently led by hardline militant al Shabaab.
"Al Shabaab captured Jowhar after serious fighting on Sunday morning," resident Ismail Farah told Reuters. "At least seven people including four civilians died."
Jowhar, Ahmed's hometown, is 90 km (56 miles) from Mogadishu and links it to the volatile central region where local sources say 68 people have been killed in clashes between al Shabaab and a moderate Islamist group since Friday.
Over the past two weeks, fighting in southern Somalia has killed at least 172 civilians and wounded 528 others, according to a local rights group.
Somali Security Minister Omar Hashi Aden said the militants were being supported from outside. He has previously accused Eritrea of arming the insurgents, a charge Asmara denies.
"They are fighting in Mogadishu, and central Somalia. They have also started a war in Jowhar. They are economically and militarily supported ... it is not cheap to sustain fighting."
Eighteen years of conflict have destabilised the region, sent tens of thousands across the border, and drawn foreign militants and a flood of arms to the Horn of Africa nation.
Pirates have taken advantage of the anarchy with ever bolder attacks on international shipping. Nearly 30 hijackings so far this year have set it on course to be the worst ever.
In a much-needed boost for the government, former warlord and powerful opposition leader Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siad, also known as "Inda'ade", defected to its side over the weekend.
"The opposition are bandits," Inda'ade told reporters. "We shall defend the Islamic government. They (opposition) do irreligious acts, and they kill innocent people."
Inda'ade's former group, Hizbul Islam, confirmed the defection but said it would not change anything. "(Inda'ade) and his troops have left us and joined the government ... but that will not affect us," said Hassan Mahdi, spokesman for the group.
Hizbul Islam is an umbrella opposition group including militant leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, seen as a powerful figure among insurgents. Aweys said Inda'ade had given most of his weapons to him before defecting.
The International Crisis Group think tank said Somalia's opposition groups had become deeply divided. "There is now a battle shaping up between reportedly moderate Muslims and the extremists, such as Al-Shabaab," it said.
On Friday and Saturday, fighting between Shabaab and a moderate Islamist group in two central towns killed some 68 people and sent 3,300 others fleeing from their homes, pro-government forces and a rights group said.
"We have killed 47 al Shabaab fighters including a white man in Mahas and Wabho," Sheikh Abdullahi Sheikh Abu Yusuf, spokesman of the moderate Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca, told Reuters, adding that three of their fighters had been killed.
The Mogadishu-based Elman Peace and Human Rights group said 18 civilians were killed in those clashes, and that 3,300 people had fled their homes. "Fighting continues non-stop in those areas," said Yasin Ali Gedi, vice chairman of the group. (Additional reporting by Mohamed Ahmed and Abdi Guled; writing by Jack Kimball; editing by Philippa Fletcher).
Source: Reuters, May 17, 2009

New Legislation and the Return of an Old Argument

Medeshi May 17, 2009
By Scott Morgan
New Legislation and the Return of an Old Argument
There is a specific reason why I chose this title. There are two distinct actions that have been taken this week in Washington regarding Issues in Africa.
The First Part is New Legislation was Introduced in the US Senate that Deals with an Important but Highly Underreported Root of the Crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Second Part is a Statement by the New Undersecretary of State For African Affairs Johnny Carson. Lets say it appears that it is once Again 2006 in Somalia.
First of All is the Congo Conflict Minerals Act.
This is a Bi-Partisan Introduced Legislation that seeks to Address One of the Root Causes for All that ills the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Sponsors Include Sam Brownback Republican from Kansas, Russ Feingold a Democrat from Wisconsin and who is the Chairman of the African Subcommitee on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Charles Schumer a Democrat from New York.
What is the reason why this Legislation is currently needed? Key Components for Electronic Devices are made from Raw Materials Extracted from the Conflict Prone Eastern Part of the DRC. In Essence it is alledged that Multi-National Coporations are Profitting from the Suffering of their Fellow Human Beings.
What Materials will be Covered? According to the Legislation the Origin of the Country where purchases of Gold, Coltan, Casserite (Tin Ore) and Wolframite are Made From. The Legislation will require such information be disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
It is believed that the sales of these Minerals are funding various Warlords and Militia Groups that literally Run Affairs in the Eastern DRC.
At this time the Consumer Electronics Industry has had a tepid response to this Legislation but have indicated that they will work on this issue.
US Officals will have a Lot on their Agenda in the Near Future when it Comes to Crisis Spots in Africa!!!
Now to the Return of the Old Argument:
In 2006 Ethiopian Forces entered Somalia to Prop up a Weak Western-Backed Government against an Islamic Insurgency. As Much as anything this may have been a key factor in the spike in the Acts of Piracy that Began in 2008.
When the Incursion began in December 2006 the US State Department reported that it had Evidence that Eritrea had been providing Logisitical Support and even Ground Forces to the UIC (Union of Islamic Courts.)
Fast Forward to 2009. Ethiopian Forces have left Somalia but a number of them remain along the Border in case that they have to return. A small contingent of AU Peacekeepers are in Mogadishu under a limited Mandate. A New Islamist Militia Al-Shabbab which some People maintain has close links to Al-Qaida has Power in the Southern Part of the Country. They have also threatened to Invade Kenya as well.
Recently in an Interview with the BBC US Undersecretary of State for African Affairs Johnny Carson reiterated the Claim that Eritrea has been supporting the Islamist Militias in Somalia. He stated that the US and the UN have "credible" Evidence of Eritrean Involvement in Somalia.
This is one of the reason for the Tensions between the United States and Eritrea. Other Reasons are the Situation along the Border with Ethiopia and the Human Rights Record within Eritrea.
There has been an increase in the Fighting In and Around Mogadishu and an Offer by the Government for a Ceasefire was rejected by the Islamists.
For its part the Eritrean Government has denied any involvement in Somalia once Again
This situation can best be described as TO BE CONTINUED......

Change is coming to Ethiopia

Medeshi May 17, 2009
Change is coming to Ethiopia
After 18 years in power, serious moves are afoot to renew the leadership of the ruling EPRDF
Change is coming to Ethiopia, says Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. It was time the country's political old guard stepped down, he told Africa Confidential in an interview on 3 May. Meles has submitted his resignation and the ruling party discussed it in February - but that does not make it inevitable. If there is a change, it would be more of personnel than policy, he suggested. The issue was not that the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front had ruled for 18 years but that 'the same people have been in positions of leadership throughout the period'. He included himself in 'the old leadership which was leading the EPRDF during the armed struggle and up to now'.
When asked if he was expecting 'a collective transition', Meles replied, 'Yes, I think that the next crucial step needs to be taken,' implying that the older generation faced retirement. Meles has recently repeated that he would like to step down by the next elections. This statement has been greeted with scepticism. He had been less forthright about renewing the leadership - a message that many of his colleagues will not welcome. The EPRDF has ruled since 1991 and many leaders of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the main party in its four-party coalition, have been in positions of power since they took up arms in 1975. No names have officially been named.
Any changes on this scale require an EPRDF congress. Several options would open up regarding Meles' successor (see Box). 'The generation that moved the mountains', as the war veterans that defeated Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam's regime are known, may be growing tired. It seems unlikely that a collective transition could pass unopposed: some in the EPRDF might feel they should take over if Meles left office.
Opposition could also come from closer to home: the Premier's wife, Azeb Mesfin, is now in a controlling position at the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray. She might not relish a diminution of her growing political role, even for the sake of the ruling party's political health.
Leading potential candidates include Seyoum Mesfin, Abay Tsehaye, Addisu Legesse, Tewodros Adhanom and Arkebe Oqubay. All are Tigrayan: ethnicity is an important bargaining chip in this diverse society and despite representing the major nationalities, the EPRDF is dominated by Tigrayans, even though they are nationally outnumbered by both Amharas and Oromo. There are those who think a Tigrayan successor to Meles could widen ethnic divisions that the EPRDF has never been able fully to close.
No consensusThe question of succession may be largely academic. Leaving the final decision on Meles's resignation to the party offers plenty of room for a change of face. The issue was raised at the quarterly EPRDF Executive Committee meeting in February, attended by an equal number of representatives from each member party: the TPLF, Amhara National Democratic Movement (both EPRDF founding members), Oromo People's Democratic Organisation and Southern Ethiopian Peoples' Democratic Movement.
There was heated discussion but no consensus. Meles's recognition of the need to rejuvenate the EPRDF as a whole demonstrates that he understands the need for a show of democratic change. A new party leader would set an important precedent and mark the first-ever peaceful and voluntary handover of power in Ethiopia.
However, a change of age group might not trigger a change of attitude. Tewodros would ostensibly constitute a departure from the traditional leadership; he was not involved in the student movement and played no part in the liberation struggle, yet he is very close to Meles and would provide no real change of direction. Arkebe took part in the liberation struggle, albeit for less time than others of the old guard, yet he retains more political independence than might be expected.
In any event, the EPRDF has begun to prepare actively for the elections. The government has organised talks on procedure: it is keen to avoid the violence and other problems of 2005, when an impressive pre-electoral process was marred by post-poll violence, followed by the refusal of some elected opposition members to take their seats in Parliament. The opposition has already said that it does not expect a fair deal but although still much divided, some elements have begun organising.
The major challenge may come from the Forum (Medrek) for Democratic Dialogue in Ethiopia (FDDE), an alliance of parties established by former Defence Minister Siye Abraha and former President Negasso Gidada. A central element in the Forum is the Arena Tigray for Democracy and Sovereignty, under Gebru Asrat, an opposition party in Tigray Region which threatens the TPLF in its own heartland.
The other parties in Forum include: Ethiopian Democratic Unity Movement; Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement, led by member of parliament Bulcha Demeksa; Somali Democratic Alliance Forces; the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces, which consists of the Ethiopian Social Democratic Party and Southern Ethiopian Peoples' Democratic Congress (both chaired by Beyene Petros, MP), plus the Oromo People's Congress of MP Merara Gudina; and Union for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), chaired by Birtukan Mideksa.
These parties have all agreed to contest the elections under the Medrek banner while maintaining their own structures and leaders. They thus hope to avoid a collapse like that of the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy in 2005. The CUD had never been much more than a veil covering major policy disagreements and competing ambitions; its leaders' inability to put aside these ambitions lost it many supporters. The need for an effective coalition is pressing.
A group of former CUD members led by Birtukan set up the UDJ, which is now in the Forum. Former CUD Chairman Hailu Shawel, who refuses to have anything to do with his former colleagues, has formed the All Ethiopia Unity Party. Yet another splinter, led by Ayele Chamiso, has kept the CUD name. The United Ethiopian Democratic Party-Medhin is renamed the Ethiopian Democratic Party. It is still led by Lidetu Ayelew, who caused its split with the CUD after a confrontation with Hailu Shawel.
Ginbot 7 was founded last year in the diaspora and is not registered in Ethiopia. It is led by Berhanu Nega, the only opposition leader to leave Ethiopia after oppositionists were pardoned in 2007. The 24 April arrests have raised its profile (AC Vol 50 No 9). Most ex-CUD parties suffer from the widespread disenchantment about their infighting; it is uncertain how much support they will get.
Opposition fractures are visible, despite the fledgling alliances. Where power is fiercely contested, this is dangerous. Many oppositionists have little faith that the government will really address their concerns: expanding political freedom; freeing all political prisoners; press freedom and equal media access; neutrality for the National Electoral Board; full and independent judiciary; and freedom of expression. Yet without a concerted attempt at organisation, none of the opposition parties can hope for a favourable outcome to the 2010 elections.
In 2005, the EPRDF made the telling point that the opposition criticised the government but never came up with any serious alternative policies. However, Meles' government has done little to address opposition concerns, then or since. The government has stressed that it is keen to avoid any of the violence that haunted the 2005 elections. This requires dialogue with the opposition and addressing the issues involved in building a democratic system.

Not all Somalias are created equal

Medeshi May 17, 2009
Not all Somalias are created equal
By McClatchy
When I've gone to Somalia, the first question I've had to grapple with, as a foreigner and therefore ransom bait, is how many armed bodyguards to hire.
Not so in Somaliland. The first serious question asked of me after I landed recently came from the helpful young clerk at the cell phone company.
“Do you want to get Internet on your phone?” he asked.
Somaliland was almost a pleasure to work in -- not as hot and pirate-infested as Puntland, not as likely to be fatal as Mogadishu. Walking through the main market there, I didn't get that heavy pulse-pounding you usually feel in Somalia, like someone could be after you or the car in front of you could explode. And yet Somaliland is still, technically, Somalia.
The regional government has been trying to get African and Western countries to recognize its independence, but so far in vain. While this irks experts and aid workers, African countries are still trying to maintain the rhetoric of a unified Somalia -- and the U.S. and other Western countries aren't going to take the lead in recognizing Somaliland.
This is unfortunate. Somaliland has earned the right to decide its own fate by doing an admirable job governing itself, creating relatively robust economic and political systems in the midst of chaos. This hasn't exactly sat well with the extremists in the south, who staged coordinated suicide bombings in the capital, Hargeisa, last October -- the most shocking violence here since the civil war of the early 1990s.
The government swiftly instituted security measures, and now buildings frequented by foreigners and top officials are barricaded and most expatriates don't venture outside after dark.
The economy is stable but sluggish, which is what you get when foreign banks aren't free to open branches, and officials insist they need access to direct foreign investment to decouple it from the rest of Somalia. Shipments are regularly delayed because the main port, Berbera, still registers for insurance companies as part of Somalia. When I was there, the main cell phone company, Telesom, had run out of SIM cards.
But, they assured me, they could put Internet on my phone. I sat in the airy second-story customer service center, surrounded by a whirring bank of computers, while the guy worked on my phone. He fiddled with it for 10 minutes before I realized he had no idea what he was doing. When I walked over he was staring at the keypad blankly.
“Have you ever programmed one of these before?” I asked.
“No,” he said finally, and handed the phone back apologetically. So the BlackBerry has yet to reach Somaliland. But it will.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Political crisis in Kuwait

Medeshi May 16, 2009
Political crisis in Kuwait
By Hashem Ahelbarra
(Photo: Salwa Al Jassar pays her registration fee to stand in the Kuwaiti election on May 16, 2009 [EPA]
The political standoff between Kuwait's royal family and some members of parliament has delayed health, education, investment and infrastructure projects.
Al Jazeera correspondent Hashem Ahelbarra explains the issues fuelling the feud.
Q: Why has the Kuwaiti parliament been dissolved three times in as many years?
Kuwait faces the challenge of maintaining a relatively democratic system while preserving quasi-absolute powers of the ruling family.
In video

Political infighting disrupts Kuwait's markets
More videos...The media is very outspoken, MPs have more latitude to file no-confidence votes, sanction the government and fire ministers. However, criticising Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the emir, or ruler, of Kuwait, is a red line.
Attempts by independent and Islamist members of parliament to oust the prime minister and the defence minister - both of whom are members of the royal family - were rebuffed by the emir, who simply dissolved the legislature to put an end to the political standoff that has crippled life in the oil-rich Gulf state.
MPs who openly said that some members of the royal family are unfit to hold key cabinet posts, were also arrested and accused of disparaging the powers of the emir.
Mutual distrust between the national assembly and the ruling family has deepened over the past few years, with both sides trading accusations.
The royal family alleges some MPs have abused their constitutional powers for personal gain. On the other hand, parliamentarians say the government is not up to the task of ruling the country.
Is the political crisis rooted in a standoff between what some describe as 'Islamist deputies' and a pro-Western government?
Not exactly. There is a misconception here. Unlike in Egypt, the "Islamists" of the Gulf in general, and of Kuwait in particular, have on many occasions sided with the government and approved legislation and budgets.
Rather, the standoff is between conservative Islamic, independent, liberal and tribal MPs who think the powers given to the ruling family - particularly the emir and the prime minister - should be diminished.
The row that prompted the emir to dissolve the parliament came after the latter accused the royal family of squandering public funds and doing less to bail out the economy.
However, it is important to remember the crisis is not just rooted in dissatisfaction with a government. It is more about a parliament asking to have a bigger say in the decision-making process - something that the conservative Gulf state is not ready for just yet.
Why won't the prime minister - a relative of Sheikh Sabah - stand down?
The crisis started when some MPs tried to question Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Ahmad Al-Sabah - nephew of the emir - for allegedly misusing public funds and mismanaging the country.
But the spat was not only about his personal performance; it was more about the role of the prime minister and the powers he exercises.
In 2003, in a departure from long-established tradition, Jaber al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the then emir, removed the title of prime minister from the crown prince.
Separating the two positions was a key demand of political reformers in the country.
But just a few years on, securing the premiership is the dream of many ambitious members of the ruling family because the prime minister will most likely become a crown prince if the emir dies.
This is the reason why prime ministers now desperately fight to remain in position and the importance of the role has created tensions within the royal family.
Observers suspect some sheikhs may be using their allies in parliament to topple the prime minister for their own interests.
What sort of political system is in operation in Kuwait?
Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy with the oldest parliament in the region. The emir still holds huge powers, but the parliament has the means to influence many decisions.
The constitution gives the assembly the right to dismiss the prime minister or any other cabinet member - although it must follow a series of procedures. The nomination of the emir and the crown prince has to be approved by the legislature.
However, relations between the royal family and parliament have been constantly tumultuous. The Kuwaiti sheikhs blame MPs for trying to win rights that have been royal perogatives for decades, while independent MPs want parliament to have a bigger say in political life.
Parliament has been suspended entirely on three occasions in the past - from 1976 to 1981, from 1986 to 1991 and from May to July 1999 - when the dispute reached absolute deadlock.
Women can stand for election so why aren't there any female MPs?
Despite the fact Kuwait has more political freedoms, a social context that allows women more opportunities compared to, for example, Saudi Arabia, women only won the right to vote and run for public office in 2005.
Women have been trying hard to secure a seat in parliament, but gender barriers are still deeply rooted in Kuwaiti society. The chances of a woman being elected to the legislative body remain slim because of the lack of political support.
Ironically, even though polls suggest women make up more than 50 per cent of the electorate, female candidates received more votes from men than women. For women to successfully stand for election, they need to win the female vote.
What are the financial implications for Kuwait given the current political impass is holding up legislation - including passing a financial stimulus package?
The political stagnation is claiming victims in the country - projects have been postponed and many social development programmes have been delayed. Although it enjoys massive oil reserves, Kuwait is lagging far behind neighbouring countries in terms of healthcare, education and infrastructure - again, largely because of the bickering between the cabinet and parliamentarians.
Have companies began to pull out of Kuwait?
The cancellation of the $17.4bn joint venture between Kuwait and the US company Dow Chemical was obviously related to political infighting, although MPs publicly argued the project was not economically viable and also opposed building a new $1.5bn refinery
However, the oil-rich nation will continue to attract more companies vying for lucrative contracts.

Ethiopia : Big dam, bigger problems

From the Los Angeles Times
Big dam, bigger problems
By Lori PottingerMay 14, 2009
Right now, the Obama administration is participating in its first annual meeting of the African Development Bank, which is mandated to fund critical infrastructure for poor African nations. On the agenda is financing one of the biggest projects ever considered by the bank, the $2.1-billion Gilgel Gibe III dam in Ethiopia.
The U.S. government has contributed more than $400 million in the last three years to the African Development Bank. It is also Ethiopia's largest aid donor, giving upward of $450 million a year for everything from food and water to military assistance. American taxpayers have a responsibility to ensure that this money is well spent.
By any measure, Gibe III is a lousy investment. It is the third element in a massive five-part dam project on the Omo River and its tributaries. The Ethiopian government wants to generate power, in part for export, by "taming" the Omo. But this is the most poorly planned hydropower project being built on the continent today. The government has cut corners in its preparation, increasing its risks of economic and technical failure, and it has done next to nothing to reduce the project's massive ecological and social footprint. A group of affected people and the organization I work for, International Rivers, already have filed complaints with the African Development Bank, citing five social and environmental bank policies the dam violates.
Gibe III will change forever the Lower Omo River Valley, one of the world's most isolated regions. It is the homeland of a handful of indigenous communities, half a million farmers, herders and fishermen who are largely untouched by modern society. Damming the Omo will wreak havoc with its natural flood cycles, which underlie the cultures and the traditional "flood retreat" farming practices of the Mursi, Bodi, Kara and other communities along it.
The dam will affect ecosystems and disrupt communities all the way to the world's largest desert lake, Turkana, downstream in Kenya. An oasis of biodiversity in a harsh desert, Lake Turkana, a World Heritage site, supports more than a quarter of a million Kenyans and rich animal life. The Omo River accounts for up to 90% of the lake's inflow. That will be curtailed by at least 50% as the dam fills, and it will be reduced thereafter by evaporation from the massive reservoir that will form behind the dam, according to the African Resources Working Group, which is made up of international scientists and scholars who work in Ethiopia. Turkana's salinity -- already high -- will intensify, making it undrinkable and affecting fisheries.
Such outcomes should have been predicted in project analysis, but Ethiopia started building the dam before undertaking a thorough environmental impact assessment. When it finally produced such a report, the project was already two years into construction and the study, again according to the independent African Resources Working Group, was "fundamentally flawed." Ethiopian government officials told the BBC that proper environmental studies were simply "luxurious preconditions."
The people who depend directly on the Omo's precious water would have appreciated having the dam's sweeping effects on their lives properly analyzed before the bulldozers rolled out. International Rivers' studies show that only a tiny proportion of the people have been consulted or effectively informed of the changes the dam will bring, in contravention of guarantees in the Ethiopian Constitution.
For centuries, these unique cultures tied to a harsh landscape have proved highly resilient, but the dam, combined with climate change, may prove to be the last straw. These communities need small-scale water supply systems where they live, increased capacity to grow food crops during times of drought and other forms of climate-adaptation assistance. Big, centralized dams will not address these needs.
Climate change brings huge risks not just for riverine people and biodiversity but for the dam's viability as a development project. Five major droughts since 1980 already have taken a toll on Ethiopia's economy. More than 85% of its electricity now comes from large dams; the figure will be 95% after the dam boom is over. A drought-crippled Gibe III would bring a sea of red ink to Ethiopia and lead to blackouts and economic consequences for regional governments that buy its electricity.
The African Development Bank should closely investigate Gibe III and measure it against the bank's environmental and social standards. Rather than support such destructive projects, it should help Ethiopia drought-proof its energy sector, diversify its energy mix, tap its abundant renewable energy resources and get serious about climate-change adaptation plans for its river peoples. That is what the United States government should be supporting at the bank this week, not the Gibe III dam.
Lori Pottinger works in the Africa program of the environmental group International Rivers.

UN cites reports Eritrea aiding Somali militants

UN cites reports Eritrea aiding Somali militants
May 15, 2009
* Security Council wants charged against Eritrea probed* Eritrea denies aiding insurgents in Somalia
Megan Davies
UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council on Friday voiced concern over reports that Eritrea has been supplying arms to Islamist militants intent on toppling Somalia’s new government and condemned the recent violence.
The 15-nation council demanded that Somali opposition groups immediately end the violence and join reconciliation efforts in the lawless Horn of Africa state.
“The Security Council … expresses its concern over reports that Eritrea has supplied arms to those opposing the (government of) Somalia in breach of the U.N. arms embargo,” the statement said.
It also called for an investigation of the reports.
In an accusation backed by some security experts and diplomats, Somalia’s government said earlier this month that Asmara continues to support al Shabaab militants with planeloads of AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons.
Eritrea rejects accusations that it sends weapons to the al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants fighting Somalia’s government.
“We have never done this — it is totally false and misleading,” said Eritrea’s U.N. Ambassador Araya Desta. He said Eritrea had never given financial or military support to opposition factions in Somalia.
“The historical relationship that exists between Eritrea and Somalia is still intact, we fully respect them and we anticipate peace and stability in the country — that is our goal,” said Desta.
One diplomat said the Security Council statement was significant for singling out Eritrea by name. It usually refers to “third countries” or “outside” parties, he said.
Fighting between al Shabaab militants — who admit to having foreigners in their ranks — and pro-government fighters has killed at least 139 people and sent some 27,000 fleeing the pock-marked, seaside capital Mogadishu since late last week.
The Security Council expressed “concern at the loss of life and the worsening humanitarian situation arising out of the renewed fighting.”
Somalia’s 18 years of anarchy has left millions displaced, killed tens of thousands and created one of the world’s worst aid crises. Attacks on relief workers, extortion and regular clashes have hampered groups trying to work there.
Aid organizations warned on Thursday that Somalia’s worst fighting in months was aggravating an already dire humanitarian emergency.NO U.N. PEACEKEEPERS FOR NOW
Somalia has been a byword for anarchy since a dictatorship was overthrown in 1991. Currently, large parts of south and central Somalia are under the control of al Shabaab insurgents and allied Islamist fighters.
The U.N. Security Council has long been under pressure from African states to send a U.N. force to Somalia, but repeatedly delayed deciding. It is due to consider the matter again by June 1.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended in a report to the Security Council last month that the best approach would be to step up support for African Union peacekeepers already in Somalia, known as AMISOM, and for Somali security forces.
If that is successful, the United Nations could gradually build up a U.N. presence and take over from AMISOM. Indonesia has said it would be willing to lead and provide troops for an eventual U.N. peacekeeping mission in Somalia.
Ban has cautioned that sending U.N. blue helmets to Somalia any time soon would be a high-risk move that would likely prompt attacks against the peacekeepers.
Somalia’s moderate Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed was sworn in as president in January, promising to forge peace with east African neighbors, tackle rampant piracy offshore and rein in hard-line insurgents.

UN sees not yet time for Somalia blue-helmet force

UN sees not yet time for Somalia blue-helmet force
Source: Reuters - AlertNet
Date: 16 May 2009
- British envoy: Security Council not ready to send troops
- "Conditions on the ground don't exist at the moment"
- Council to step up support for AU Somalia force instead
By Patrick Worsnip
ADDIS ABABA, May 16 (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council does not think conditions are yet right to send a peacekeeping force to Somalia but will step up support for African Union (AU) troops there, a senior Western envoy said on Saturday.
The Council, which has long been urged by African states to send blue-helmets to the turbulent Horn of Africa country, promised early this year to decide by June 1 whether to do so.
But after an annual meeting between the Council and the AU's Peace and Security Council, Britain's U.N. Ambassador John Sawers said: "The analysis of most members of the Council is that the conditions for that at present don't exist."
"The consensus within the Council is to continue our support for the African Union peacekeeping mission and to strengthen that support," Sawers told a news conference.
Battles between al Shabaab militants and pro-government fighters have killed at least 139 people and sent some 27,000 fleeing the Somali capital Mogadishu in the past week or so.
Some Western intelligence agencies fear Somalia, with its weak central government struggling against the Islamist insurgents, could become a beach-head in Africa for al Qaeda-style militants.
The U.N. special envoy to Somalia said on Friday up to 300 foreign fighters had joined the insurgents, and the Security Council voiced concern over reports that Eritrea has been arming the militants. Eritrea called this 'totally false'.
Diplomats said several African delegates at Saturday's meeting again raised the issue of turning the AU force into a U.N. one. But U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said such a force could become a target for attacks.
Sawers told reporters a resolution to be considered in New York later this month would extend an existing support package for the AU force, known as AMISOM, for eight months.
"This is an unprecedented arrangement whereby through U.N. assessed contributions, we give the sort of underpinning to the African Union peacekeeping force to ensure its support arrangements are up to U.N. standards," he said.
Assessed contributions from the U.N. are obligatory and not subject to ad hoc fund-raising. One diplomat put a figure of $350 million on the value of the package but others said it was up to the General Assembly budgetary committee and could include goods and services such as transport.
There are currently more than 4,000 Ugandan and Burundian troops in AMISOM, but the force has been growing only slowly towards its planned strength of 8,000.
The presence of foreign soldiers backing Somalia's government has been a sticking point for opposition figures since Ethiopian troops intervened in 2006. The Ethiopians left earlier this year.
Hardline opposition leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys says he will not enter talks with the government until the AU peacekeepers leave. In an interview with Reuters this week he accused U.N. special envoy to Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah of "destroying" the country by supporting the government.
But diplomats said delegates at Saturday's meeting continued to back the government. "We support the government in Somalia because it has gone through the rigours of consensus building," said Ugandan U.N. Ambassador Ruhakana Rugunda.
The talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa also focused on Sudan, including the Darfur conflict.
Diplomats said an envoy from Burkina Faso, which is on the Council, told delegates there was no agreement in the body on deferring an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur. The AU and Arab League support such a deferment.
The visiting team of ambassadors and top diplomats from the 15-member Council will also visit Rwanda, Congo and Liberia.

Somaliland strives to distinguish itself in troubled region

Somaliland strives to distinguish itself in troubled region
The breakaway republic hopes to become Africa's newest state, wooing international support with state-of-the-art elections. But it faces the corruption, injustice and tensions endemic to the region.
By Edmund Sanders
May 16, 2009
Reporting from Hargeisa, Somaliland — When it came time to register voters for a presidential election in Somaliland, this dirt-poor breakaway republic picked the most expensive fingerprint-identification technology available to prevent fraud.
Then it seemed everyone did their best to undermine it.
With many people using different fingers on a biometric scanning pad or other ways to fool the device, nearly twice as many as the 700,000 to 800,000 estimated eligible voters received voter cards. Under the new $8-million system, one polling station registered, astonishingly, nearly 14 times as many people as it had for a parliamentary election four years ago.
Now Somaliland's embattled election commission, aided by a European consultant, is scrambling to cull the list of voters by applying a second security layer, of facial-recognition software. If it works, the voter rolls in this relatively stable corner of northern Somalia stand to become among the most technologically vetted in the world.
The voter registration controversy says a lot about the challenges facing this Horn of Africa territory of 3.5 million people. Somaliland, after declaring its independence from Somalia in 1991, has hoped sovereignty would enable it to better protect its citizens, rebuild the economy and attract foreign assistance.
Just about everything Somaliland does -- from holding elections to chasing pirates -- seems aimed at currying international favor, portraying an image of stability and distancing itself from the chaos raging to its south. It dreams of becoming Africa's newest nation.
"It's the thing always in the back of our minds," said Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo, one of Somaliland's founding fathers and a leading opposition figure. "The only commodity we sell to the international community is that we are a stable country."
Yet as Somaliland tries to leapfrog from oppressed backwater to regional role model, it's facing the same ghosts -- corruption, injustice and ethnic tensions -- that have haunted its neighbors.
The election scheduled for September, which was intended to highlight Somaliland's democratic progress, is instead exposing institutional weaknesses and stirring domestic discontent.
Besides the voter-registration debacle, the election date has been twice postponed at the request of President Dahir Riyale Kahin. His term was extended over the objection of opposition parties, who now call his government unconstitutional.
Ethnic rivalry is on the rise as political parties court Somaliland's major clans, which yield considerable cultural and political clout in Africa. Many residents are bracing for what is expected to be a very close race. In 2003, the president was declared the winner by just 80 votes amid allegations of rigging.Civil-society leaders worry Somaliland could be headed toward the same kind of election turmoil that rocked Kenya last year after a disputed presidential vote ignited ethnic violence that left more than 1,000 people dead.
Longtime human rights activist Ibrahim Wais questioned whether Somaliland's political leaders respected democratic ideals enough to conduct a free and fair election.
"It's not a conviction with them," he said. "It's a pretense, a plaything to impress the international community."
President Kahin insisted Somaliland was on the right path to democracy and dismissed naysayers, noting that there have been three peaceful national elections since 2001.
"There's no [democratic] backsliding," he said in an interview in the reception hall of the presidential palace in Hargeisa. "A lot of people never believed elections could happen smoothly in this country."
But opposition leaders suggest they won't accept defeat as gracefully as they did in 2003.
"If I lose by the rules, I'll accept," said Silanyo, the leading presidential challenger. "If I don't, I'll fight it."
Silanyo said he wouldn't resort to violence, but others in the opposition aren't so sure. He and others accuse Kahin of clinging to power by repeatedly delaying the election. They also say that the president has hidden lucrative oil-exploration deals from parliament, arrested opposition leaders and journalists, monopolized state-owned media and bribed clan leaders and members of the Upper House.
The president denied the allegations. He blamed election delays on the faulty voter-registration system and last fall's triple suicide bombings in Hargeisa by Islamic extremists, which killed about two dozen people.
For most of the last decade, Somaliland's governance and human rights record have drawn praise, particularly compared with those of its neighbors. Somaliland boasts free speech and private newspapers. Its population voluntarily disarmed, reconciled and transitioned into an elected, civilian government.
By contrast, Somalia continues to struggle with no fully functioning government. Ethiopia has been accused of heavy-handed crackdowns against its citizens. Eritrea has no elections or free press.
"The government in Somaliland has a better human rights record than any other government in the Horn, including Kenya," said Chris Albin-Lackey, an analyst at Human Rights Watch. "But that's setting the bar pretty low."
British Somaliland, a protectorate of the crown, won independence in 1960 and merged with the Italian colony to its south to form the Republic of Somalia. Residents soon regretted unity when successive regimes marginalized, and eventually bombed, the northern areas.
Somaliland rebels helped bring about the collapse of the Siad Barre dictatorship in 1991 and promptly declared independence from Somalia. But the international community, including the United Nations and African Union, have feared recognition of Somaliland might have a domino effect by encouraging other disgruntled regions to assert self-rule.
Somaliland's leaders expressed dismay at the world's reluctance to recognize their progress and warned that they might not be able to hold the would-be nation together without more outside support.
"If, God forbid, things go haywire, it will be the fault of the international community," said Foreign Minister Abdillahi Duale. "We've done everything we are supposed to do."
The pursuit of international recognition has contributed to Somaliland's relative stability and democratic progress, experts say.
"It makes everyone behave a little better," said Ahmed Hussein Esa, a political activist in Hargeisa and director of the Institute for Practical Research and Training.
Government crackdowns are typically short-lived. Opposition groups are loath to organize mass protests or resort to violence.The drive for recognition is even fueling Somaliland's aggressive anti-piracy campaign. Hoping to receive international aid for its fledgling coast guard, which consists of just three speedboats, Somaliland has arrested 40 suspected pirates in recent months.
Many Somaliland citizens say they are committed to independence, but some accuse leaders of using the issue as an excuse to avoid addressing domestic problems.
Hargeisa is still a capital of mostly dirt roads. Unemployment runs about 90%. Remittances sent by family members living abroad keep the economy going.
"For 18 years they've been talking about recognition, recognition, recognition," said Abdulla Ali Ahmed, 26, a grocery store clerk in Hargeisa. "We need to develop the economy, improve schools and create jobs. When we do a better job with that, the rest of the world will recognize us."
Source: L.ATimes

Friday, May 15, 2009

'Exiled for life' in Somali camp

Medeshi 15 May 2009
'Exiled for life' in Somali camp
Dadaab, in north-eastern Kenya, is the world's biggest refugee camp, home to 260,000 people. It was built in 1991 for Somalis fleeing the fighting that erupted with the collapse of Siad Barre's military regime. Eighteen years on, conflict is still raging and Somalis continue to seek safety there.
One of the earliest camp arrivals, Mohamed Nur Hajin, tells the BBC about his life in exile:
We fled our home in 1991, when the fighting first broke out.
It was very bad back then. There was killing and looting, so we had to come to Kenya.
I was a farmer in Gede district, in the north of Somalia.
“ I thought it would only be for a month or so, but nearly 18 yers later we're still here ”
In our village, there were a lot of armed militiamen who came to raid and molest and kill everyone who was living in that area.
I thought it would only be for a month or so, and then we would return to my country, so in the beginning we never built anything permanent.
We always planned to go home as soon as things settled down and became safe enough to return, but nearly 18 years later, we're still here.
Water shortage
I have no hope of returning now. I have to stay here. Every day there are 500 new arrivals, so it shows you that there is nothing to go back to.
“ It is especially difficult for the young people... there is no future for them here ”
People are still leaving. Nobody is going back and I don't think I ever will.
Our life here in the camp is peaceful, but it is still very difficult.
There is a severe shortage of water, and the food ration is not enough for everyone. It is very hard here.
I am the chairman of the camp, so I speak for the refugees.
It is especially difficult for the young people because there is no future for them here. There are no jobs, no industry, and no hope.
When I came here, my family consisted of three, but thanks to God, I have had six more children so now we are nine.
I have a big family and I can't take them back.
Forgotten land
There is no peace in Somalia for two reasons.
Firstly, it is because everyone has forgotten the country. The international community no longer gives Somalia the support it needs to solve the problems.
The other reason is that some countries keep arming the militias. That's why they keep on fighting. Without weapons they would have to talk and solve their problems.

In the beginning, it was a fight between tribes, between clans. In Somalia clans are very strong.
But now it has changed to be a fight over religion, and that is much harder to resolve. I'm very disappointed.
Al-Shabab (a militant Islamic movement fighting to overthrow the transitional government) is not a good group because they are imposing a religion that says everyone who disagrees with them must be killed.
But our religion says people must be respected, whatever their views, and their lives must be preserved.
It is difficult to talk about the future, but right now, the situation is getting worse, because every day more Islamic groups form, and things become more fractured.

Now my only wish is for resettlement in a third country.
Then, my children can come and get a better education and some hope for a decent future, because here the education facilities are really not very good.

Interview and photos: BBC's East Africa correspondent Peter Greste
children of Dadaab face a future without education or employment

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Somaliland stable as brother nation unravels

By Shashank Bengali
McClatchy Newspapers
Somaliland stable as brother nation unravels
HARGEISA, Somaliland — It might surprise you to learn that Somalia — that post-apocalyptic shell of a nation where Islamist insurgents, clan warlords and now pirates hold sway over a helpless government — has some nice parts, too.
In Hargeisa, a visitor can walk the asphalt roads at dusk and freely breathe the sharp mountain air. The street markets are busy and boisterous, and hanging out there isn’t likely to get you killed. Cell phone companies advertise mobile Internet service and the good hotels have wireless hot spots.
If this doesn’t feel like Somalia, residents say that’s because it’s not. This is Somaliland, a northern former British protectorate that broke away from chaotic southern Somalia in 1991, established an admirably stable government and hoped never to look back.
No country has recognized Somaliland’s independence, however. The argument has always been that to do so would further destabilize Somalia, even as Somalia seems to be destabilizing well enough on its own.
So for now, this quiet slice of land along the volatile Gulf of Aden is an undeniable, if very reluctant, piece of Somalia.
A territory of 5 million people, Somaliland is trying to be a good regional citizen, hosting tens of thousands of refugees from southern Somalia and, lately, trying and imprisoning pirates, which few governments anywhere have been eager to do.
At least 26 men are serving time in Somaliland prisons for piracy. Last month, a European warship stopped nine men who were attempting to hijack a Yemeni vessel but allowed them to flee in a lifeboat. The would-be pirates washed ashore in Somaliland, where police and the scrappy coast guard, which patrols a 600-mile coastline with two speedboats and a tiny fleet of motorized skiffs, chased them down.
“We are patient. We always feel like we are getting close” to recognition, said Abdillahi Mohamed Duale, the polished foreign minister, betraying just a trace of exasperation in his near-flawless English. “Time will put Somaliland where we belong.”
Yes, the territory has a foreign minister, along with liaison offices — don’t call them diplomatic missions — in a handful of countries including the United States. It has a president and a bicameral legislature, as well as feisty opposition parties. It issues its own currency — crisp bills printed in the United Kingdom — and its own passports and visas.
It can’t make deals with other countries for development projects, though, and no international banks have opened here. The economy remains mostly pre-modern and farm-based.
So you can understand Duale’s frustration: While Somalia is a country without a functioning government, Somaliland is a noncountry with a reasonably functioning government.
The president, Dahir Riyale Kahin, won the first free elections in 2003 and was rewarded last year with a visit by the then-ranking U.S. diplomat for Africa, then-Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer. This year, however, Riyale has sparred with opposition leaders over the timing of elections, which have been postponed twice and now are set for October.
Some foreign officials are worried that the young democracy is backsliding.
“They were a model for Somalia, in our minds, but now they’re having significant problems,” said a Western diplomat who closely follows Somalia and who wasn’t authorized to be quoted by name.
Experts regard the spat as temporary and expect foreign governments to keep funding Somaliland-based relief efforts and political reform projects, but Somaliland’s limbo status appears more enduring. While the United Nations urges support for the transitional Somali government in the south, African countries are leery of encouraging their own secessionist movements and the United States is unwilling to go out on a limb for the obscure little territory.
“Governments don’t want to be involved in the politics” of Somaliland’s independence, said Patrick Duplat of Refugees International, a Washington-based advocacy group. “But they have to be cognizant of the fact that it’s the only operating government in this place.”
From colonial times, Somaliland took a different path. In the 19th-century scrum over Africa, Britain acquired the territory mainly to supply its more important garrison in Aden, across the sea in Yemen.
Relatively few British expatriates settled here, leaving tribes and institutions intact, while southern Somalia became a full-fledged colony of Italy, complete with Italianate architecture and banana farms to supply the home country.
The British and Italian territories were joined at independence to form the Somali Republic, but in 1991, with the southern-based regime verging on collapse, a rebel government in Somaliland declared itself autonomous. After two years of fighting, a new government emerged that melded traditional clan structures with Western-style separation of powers, a hybrid system that some experts have called a prototype for the rest of Somalia.
Contrast that, Duale said, with the hundreds of millions of dollars the world has poured into Somalia’s feeble transitional government, including $213 million pledged last month to bolster security forces and African Union peacekeepers.
“It’s pure hypocrisy,” Duale said. “You have here in Somaliland a nation-building process that didn’t require massive expense by others. And yet we have everything the international community preaches: self-reliance, inclusiveness, stability.”
The troubles down south have spilled over, with more than 75,000 displaced Somalis taking shelter in Somaliland. On Oct. 29, coordinated suicide bombings struck the presidential residence, a U.N. compound and an Ethiopian political office in Hargeisa, reportedly killing 30 people.
The attack was immediately blamed on Islamist militants who are battling for control of Somalia, a reminder that for all its advantages, Somaliland remains yoked to that troubled land to the south.
“Everybody was scared that we could be targeted so easily,” said Mohammed Isak, a marketing manager for a mobile phone company. “You cannot enjoy peace while your neighbor is burning.”

SOMALIA: Heavy rains aggravating conditions for “poorest of the poor”

SOMALIA: Heavy rains aggravating conditions for “poorest of the poor”
NAIROBI, 14 May 2009 (IRIN) - Heavy rains have compounded the already difficult conditions for thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs), who fled fighting in Mogadishu for camps outside the Somali capital, civil society groups said.
“The rains have made their living conditions even more difficult; almost all the new arrivals are staying under trees with nothing to shelter from the rains,” Ahmed Dini of Peaceline, a Somali civil society group, who was visiting the IDPs at the Ceelsha camps (15km south of Mogadishu), told IRIN on 14 May.
He said many of those displaced by the latest fighting were first-time IDPs, residents of some of the poorest neighbourhoods of Mogadishu.
"These are people from the Siina'a, Arjantiina and Tookiyo [all slums in the north of the city]; they are the poorest of the poor," Dini said.
He said they had stayed put during previous clashes in the capital because they did not have the means to escape.
"It is an indication of how bad things are," he said. "This current displacement is affecting mainly minorities and others who have no clan support."
Dini said the civil society community was appealing to Somalis and donor agencies, "particularly to the United Nations, to urgently come to the assistance of these people who are living in the open and under trees".
Nadiifo Hussein, one of the displaced, fled her home in the Siina'a slum on 13 May following heavy fighting and shelling. She went to the Ceelsha camps where she is caring for eight orphaned relatives.
"I left my house with nothing except what I am wearing and these children," said Hussein.
She said they had taken advantage of a lull in the fighting to escape but she was worried about how she would feed the children. "I had a small stall in the market and that was our food; now I don’t know what I will give them."
Dini, whose group monitors children, said 60 of the 150 dead and 125 of the more than 300 injured were children.
Daily exodus
Despite a lull in fighting on 13 May, many people were still leaving the city.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said the rate of displacement was increasing on a daily basis.
"Between yesterday [13 May] and the day before, 10,000 people were displaced," said Roberta Russo, spokeswoman for UNHCR Somalia.
Russo said the agency had partners on the ground who were preparing for the immediate distribution of shelter material and sleeping mats, blankets and kitchen sets.
"In the warehouse in Mogadishu, we already have sets for over 100,000 people," she said. “We are also planning to appeal to all parties through radio and other mass media to spare civilians."
Renewed fighting
Meanwhile, the fighting in Mogadishu resumed on 14 May in the northern part of the city, according to a local journalist who requested anonymity.
"There are clashes going on at Afarta Jardiino [north Mogadishu]," he said. "It is not as bad as it was three days ago but it is forcing people out of the area," he added.
The UN Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, has accused those who launched the recent attacks on Mogadishu of carrying out "an attempted coup d’├ętat to topple a legitimate government using force.
"These extremists know that they do not have the support of the Somali people and that is why they have to bring in foreign fighters who are not connected to the situation in Somalia in any way," Ould-Abdallah said.
Forces loyal to the Government of National Unity are fighting an alliance of the militant al-Shabab group and elements of the Hisbul Islam alliance.
Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs

Free Bashir Makhtal

Free-Makhtal Working Coalition Town Hall Meeting: RESOLUTION
Posted 14th May 2009
Contact information
Said Maktal
Edmonton, AB (May 11, 2009)
Free Makhtal-Working Coalition, a coalition of citizens and residents of Canada, held a town hall meeting on Sunday, May 10, 2009 to raise awareness about the plight of Bashir Makhtal. Mr. Makhtal, a CanadianCitizen has been held in an Ethiopian military prison for over two years. Much of that time, he has not hadaccess to legal representation nor where the charges against him ever been placed in front of a judge until early 2009, as a result of consist pressure the Makhtal family and the Free-Makhtal Working Coalition.It is important to note that under the guise of the war on terror, Mr. Bashir Makhtal of Toronto, was illegally detained by the Kenyan Government in 2006 and without any court proceeding, was transferred to a military prison in Ethiopia. This type of secret and extraordinary rendition where any country can imprison anyone at anytime without any legal protection is against the laws and conventions of the international community. The Canadian people and government must come to the aid of their fellow Canadian.
Present at the town hall meeting were dignitaries such as the Honourable Laurie Hawn, Professor HusseinWarsame, Ms. Fowsia Abdulkadir, Chairperson of the Free-Makhtal Working Coalition of Ottawa, Mr. Obang Metho of the Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia, and Mr. Said Makhtal family member and representatives of Somali communities of Calgary, Edmonton and Fort McMurray, who collectively spoke of the need for the Canadian government to act. All the participants of this Town Hall meeting showed that they stood in solidarity with the Free Makhtal-Coalition, shed light on Mr. Makhtal’s condition and covered what can and must be done.
Free Makhtal-Working Coalition, wishes to also commend the participants and offer our sincere thanks to the Honourable Minister of Transport, John Baird, for his thoughtful open-letter and his continued leadership on behalf of Mr. Makhtal. We look forward to future cooperation with him and his office.
All of our elected officials deserve special thanks for bringing a level of hope to the community that showedthat Canadian leaders are paying close attention to this case.
It is with resounding unanimity that the attendees, participants and organizers hereby resolve:
That Wednesday May20, 2009 become the designated Action Day for Free-Makhtal, a day to mobilize all concerned Canadians to call, e-mail and/or write to their Members of Parliament to bring Bashir Makhtal home.
To mobilize all concerned Canadians to lobby the Canadian Parliament to leverage aid to Ethiopia to meet acceptable human rights standards for the Ogaden region, the Gambella region and for all Ethiopians.
To work towards strong constituencies that advocates, and reach out to mainstream Canadiancommunities for justice for all Canadians.
For questions or press information, please contact Yassin Kassim at (780) 914-2226 and

Note: Medeshi group fully supports this initiative to release Bashir Makhtal who has been unlawfully kept by the Ethiopian regime for the last two years.

1909 Egyptian Sirdar in Somaliland

1909 Egyptian Sirdar in Somaliland
The interest in British Somaliland at present centres mainly round the visit of Sir Reginald Wingate, who has proceeded with his staff from Berbera into the interior and commenced his investigation of the political and general military situation there, on which he is to report to the Government. Various rumors are in circulation as to the outcome of this visit, the most prominent of which is that the country in question may ultimately be placed under Egyptian administration. H.M.S. Philomel has been temporarily removed from the blockade along the Somaliland coast and remains at Berbera in attendance on the Sirdar and will act as his despatch ship between there and Aden whenever the necessity arises.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pastoralists hardest-hit by drought in Somaliland

Pastoralists hardest-hit by drought in Somaliland
ERIGAVO, 13 May 2009 (IRIN) - A severe drought that has gripped Somaliland's Sanag region in the past months has hit pastoralists hardest, with hundreds of families moving to urban centres after their animals died, officials said.
"We estimate that up to 400 families [2,400 people] have been displaced to Erigavo [the region's capital], after they lost their animals in the recent drought,” Yasin H Nour, the mayor of Erigavo, told IRIN.
"Hundreds of families are now in a serious situation due to the drought that has hit the region. Their cattle and donkeys have already died; now their camels and sheep are dying daily," he added.
The drought has also affected regions surrounding Sanag in both Somaliland and the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland.
The region has suffered consecutive rainfall failure in the past three years.
Officials in the El-Afweyn, Hulul and Dararweyne districts of Sanag said 60 percent of pastoralists' animals had died in the drought.
The most affected areas are in the eastern regions of Sool, Sanag and Togdheer, according to Mursal Askar Mire, the mayor of El-Afweyn district.
"WFP [UN World Food Programme] and its partners used to supply food to the district and other rural surroundings but they stopped at the beginning of this year," Mire said. "Now the situation has deteriorated and the people are facing shortages of food and water."
Mahamud Hassan "Guled", senior public information assistant, WFP Somalia, told IRIN: “We have no relief operations at the moment due to the last FSAU [Food Security Assessment Unit/Food and Agriculture Organization Somalia] assessment, which did not warrant any relief programmes. WFP distributed 86 metric tonnes of food to 5,064 people in the district four months ago before the FSAU assessment."
Disease threats
Salah Yusuf, the mayor of Dararweyne, said the nearest water point in some areas was about 120-130km away, while most animals could only walk about 60km a day.
Yusuf and Mire called for help, saying Dararweyne was the worst-affected district.
"We are calling on the government of Somaliland, as well as the international community, to come to the aid of the people hit by the drought in the districts of El-Afweyn, Gar-adag, Hulul and Dararweyne,” the mayors said.
Yusuf said: "About 40 families [200 people] have moved to urban areas of Dararweyne District after they lost all their animals and, last week, 20 people were hospitalised for diarrhoea.

"The problem is not only lack of food and water but also some diseases have erupted in the areas, such as malaria, flu and diarrhoea." Trucking water
Ahmed-Kayse Hussein Mohamed, a data collection officer with Candle Light, a local NGO, said a team toured the remote areas of the affected districts on 10 May and found hundreds of families who had moved out of their home areas to the urban centre of El-Afweyn after losing all their animals.
Mayor Nour said the local government was trucking water to some of the affected areas in the district.
"We send eight to 10 water trucks daily to the remote areas of Erigavo, particularly the areas to the southeast and southwest of the district," Nour said.
Local officials said if the rains - expected any time now – are delayed, more pastoralists would lose their last remaining animals.
"We are worried that if the rains do not start in coming weeks, more animals may die, and even if the rains start, we fear the animals may not adapt well to the wet conditions because there is no pasture," Nour said.
Theme(s): (IRIN) Food Security, (IRIN) Natural Disasters