Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Obama is the Change but is he for Somalia?

Unlike his predecessor, President-elect Barack Obama has made it clear that his foreign policy will not be shaped by the “politics of fear,” but by “hope and change.” That, we recognize, is easily said than done. But we also understand that some words are, at times, mightier than the sword.

Take Somalia, for example. On his Website, Obama states that his Administration will develop “a coherent strategy for stabilizing Somalia,” a succinct statement that broadly addresses the incoherent tactics employed by the Bush Administration, often to destabilize Somalia.

Gone, is the “War on Terror” mantra that defined the Bush Administration’s policy toward Somalia. In, is a deliberated and nuanced view of the intricacies of the Somali conflict.

That’s crucial. Without compromising the national security of the United States, the Obama Administration can deploy of the “tough diplomacy” that he often promised during the campaign, to help bring about change in Somalia.

To that end, We offer the following advice for the President-Elect:

-Ask your Africa Team to thoroughly understand the nature of the conflict in Somalia in an encompassing fashion, without isolating a particular group or faction, for that tends to haunt back.
-Immediately end the Ethiopian occupation. This will send a powerful signal to the Somalis, long humiliated by this aggression. It will also undercut the extremists’ sole argument.
-Launch a massive humanitarian effort to rehabilitate the millions of civilians affected by the conflict in and around Mogadishu.
-Declare your support for bringing human rights violators to justice.
-Recognize the role of religious leaders and traditional elders, among others, in the societal stratum of Somalia.
-In your “coherent strategy,” help devise a mechanism for national reconciliation, whilst de-incentivizing the warlord enterprise.

Amid the current financial turmoil, and the inherent nature of unimportance of Somalia for the United States, it maybe tempting to revert back to the old “Containment Policy.”
But we believe that the United States has a moral responsibility to help end Somalia’s saga, in part because the U.S. ignited the most recent conflict when it supported the notorious Mogadishu warlords.
And also in part because the mere election of Barack Obama, a man whose roots hail from nearby Kenya, was largely celebrated in the hopes that he remotely understands the region better, relative to other presidents.
Leaving Somalia to the current status quo may, in the long run, leave the U.S. with limited policy options.

We believe it’s time to act.

Somali Pirates, The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling!!

Pirates of the Somalia coast and their daring hijackings are making news these days. Somali Pirates are most popular Google news item for several days now. AL-JAZEERA, BBC, CNN all showed the latest Aramco Supper taker hijacking in prime time news. All of sudden the world is fixated with this latest wave of hijackings.

As a Somali looking the situation from the sideline, I can only compare this media reaction to a popular children’s tale and movie called Chicken Little. One day Chicken Little raised the alarm: "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" And how did Chicken Little know the sky is falling? "I saw it with my eyes, I heard it with my ears, and a bit of it fell on my head," said Chicken Little, after getting hit on the head with an acorn while walking through the forest.

Chicken Little gathered her barnyard friends - the hen, the cock, goose, gander, and duck-all together headed off to find the King and warn him of the approaching danger. Similarly, the media was hit by an acorn (Saudi owned Oil tanker Sirius Star) apparently hauling quarter of Saudi Arabia’s daily output oil and yes the King must be warned. The world leadership must send the navies to protect the ships.

What the news media are not saying is that in Somalia, the acorn has been falling all along, but it never fell on the head of non Somalis before Sirius Star. In fact the acorn started falling back in 1990’s when the Somali government collapsed thanks to IMF and the world looked the other way because it was the interest of Christian Ethiopia who was weak at the time.

The acorn again fell on Somalia when a consensus president Abdiqasim Salad Hassan was chosen in 2001 but Ethiopia and US sabotaged his administration because he was pro Islamist and independent minded.

The acorn fell on Somalia when another president Abdullah Yusuf Ahmed was chosen but the United Nations, European Union or the African Union would not provide the support he needed immediately after his selection because he might become a threat to Christian Ethiopia as he belongs to the old guard who may or may not have nationalist ambitions.

The acorn fell on Somalia when Islamic Courts Union took over most of Somalia, eradicated the piracy the world is concerned about and were on their way of building a sustainable government that could bring normalcy to Somalia. Again, instead of the world supporting them and coming to their aide the United States and Ethiopia sabotaged their efforts by accusing them of being affiliated with terror groups and eventually United States and Britain financed Ethiopia to invade Somalia and illegally occupy a sovereign people. Ethiopian military killed more than 30,000 civilians. Injured more than 300,000 and displaced more than 2 million people and are still on it while committing looting, raping and acts of massacre.

The acorn fell on Somalia when every day around 100 people escaping from Somalia die in their perilous journey to Yemen. What the Indian navy says it sunk could well be poor migrants being illegally shipped in these same waters by these same pirates who also hijack ships on their way back to shore. So, the acorn is falling, as we speak millions of Mogadishu resident are facing indiscriminate Ethiopian shelling and that is the real KAHUNA acorn.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Move to probe Somali atrocities

Islamists again control much of Somalia

Rival Somali politicians have agreed to an international investigation into atrocities committed during the 17-year civil war, a UN envoy has said.
"Time will not erase atrocities," envoy Ahmedou Ould Abdallah told the BBC.
He said peace talks between the government and one Islamist faction, taking place in neighbouring Djibouti, were making progress on sharing power.
Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991 and has been wracked by conflict.
Mr Abdallah said the recent rise in piracy had shown that a solution had to be found to Somalia's problems.
Almost half of Somalia's population - three million people - need food aid, donors say.
Ethiopian pull-out
The peace talks resumed on Monday.
"We will not have peace overnight," Mr Abdallah admitted, but said that many people had been sceptical about bringing justice and reconciliation to other war-torn countries, such as Rwanda and Liberia.
Delegates at the talks have already agreed that Ethiopian troops, who intervened to help government forces oust the Islamists two years ago, should withdraw next month.
Their pull-out was due to start on Friday but there was no visible sign of any movement.
Instead, Islamist fighters staged an attack on an official's residence, leaving at least 15 people dead.
The UN Security Council on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution imposing sanctions - an assets freeze and travel ban - on anyone threatening peace in Somalia.
"The prime goal of this is to provide a framework to stem the flow of arms into Somalia, which is causing such mayhem there," said John Sawers, the UN ambassador of the UK, which drafted the resolution.
The resolution also mentions anyone disrupting aid deliveries.
Somalia's President Abdullahi Yusuf last week admitted that Islamists now control most of the southern part of the country.
Samira Hassan

Somalia: Uganda Sends Fresh Troops to Country

(Kampala)24 November 2008Posted to the web 25 November 2008
Chris KiwawuloKampala

UGANDA has replaced its 1,700 troops in Somalia with a new contingent, the third to deploy since the first Ugandan peacekeepers landed there about two years ago.
The first batch of 100 returning soldiers landed at Entebbe airbase at 11:15am aboard a Uganda Air Cargo plane.

The leader of the excited soldiers, Maj. Stephen Lubulwa, kissed the tarmack upon disembarking from the plane.
By press time, 250 soldiers had landed and more were expected.
Welcoming the returnees, defence minister Dr. Crispus Kiyonga praised them for their discipline and courage in the effort to restore peace in Somalia.
"Uganda was the first country to respond to the call for keeping peace in Somalia because we want peace on the African continent," he said.
"The UPDF have not done anything wrong in Somalia."
Through the deputy chief of defence forces Lt. Gen. Ivan Koreta, Lubulwa handed over the Ugandan flag to Kiyonga as the UPDF brass band played.
He then handed it to the new contingent head, Col. Jackson Bakasumba.
Kiyonga urged the new contingent to be disciplined. Koreta said Somalia was a hot war, but this would not deter the UPDF from handling its peace duties.
Kiyonga noted that piracy could impact on the situation if the ransom the pirates get is used to finance insurgents.
Somali pirates have been seizing ships off the Somali coast for which they received millions of dollars in ransom.
Maj. Bahoku Barigye, the spokesman of the African Union peace-keepers in Somalia (AMISOM), however, said piracy was a symptom of the bigger problem in the country.
Warrant Officer I Joseph Bikaka, one of the returnees, said businessmen cashing in on the instability were also funding the war.
Bikaka said Somalis liked Ugandan forces, adding that "on a daily basis I would interact with between 10 to 20 of them."
Commenting on the returning soldiers, Lubulwa said the contingent lost three soldiers and 11 were injured during their 11-month-long duty.
However, overall nine Ugandans and one Burundian died, said Bahoku-Barigye.
AMISOM is supposed to replace Ethiopian troops which deployed in 2006 to contain the Islamic Courts which had seized the capital Mogadishu.
Although Ethiopia ejected the Islamists from power, they retreated to outlying towns from where they have waged a viscious guerrilla-like war.
AMISOM needs at least 8,000 troops to handle the volatile situation.
In response, Uganda first sent 1,500 soldiers in March 2007, and another 250 later that year. Burundi sent 1,700 troops this year, making a total of 3,400 troops.
Other African countries that pledged forces, like Nigeria, are yet to do so.
Kiyonga said such countries were willing to send troops to Somalia but were limited by resources.

"If the UN avails resources, other countries will beef us up."

Samira Hassan

Voter Registration Halted After Somaliland Terror Attacks

Officials in Somalia's breakaway republic of Somaliland have halted an ongoing voter-registration process following terror attacks that killed at least 20 people last week, Radio Garowe reported.
Mohamed Ismail Mohamed, chairman of the Somaliland Election Commission, told a Saturday press conference in the separatist region's capital city Hargeisa that the series of suicide bombings impacted the voter-registration process that was already underway.
"The [Somaliland] Election Commission has postponed the voter-registration process for ten days," Mr. Mohamed said, while praising the successful completion of the process in regions like Awdal, the native region of Somaliland leader Dahir Riyale.
The Election Commission chairman sent condolences to the families of the deceased, while underlining that the terror attacks were "aimed at destroying the stability in Somaliland." Full story
Meanwhile, security forces continue to have a heavy presence on Hargeisa streets with multiple checkpoints and have completely shut down the vital road that drives by the presidential palace, which was one of the suicide bombers' targets.
International organizations, like the EU, pay millions of dollars in grants to the Somaliland government to host democratic elections next year.

Somaliland, in Somalia's northwest, has its own government and has been relatively stable since the mid-1990s. The separatist enclave is scheduled to hold presidential elections in March 2009.

Samira Hassan

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Deadly car bombs hit Somaliland

The attacks were a shock to many in Hargeisa after years of peace Most of the casualties were in the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa

The attacks were a shock to many in Hargeisa after years of peace
At least 29 people have died in a wave of coordinated car-bombings across northern Somalia.
Most of the casualties were in the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa, where the presidential palace, Ethiopian consulate and UN offices were targeted.
Two suicide attackers also killed six intelligence agents in their offices in neighbouring Puntland, the region's president says.
These are the first suicide attacks in the two relatively stable regions.
Somaliland has declared independence from war-torn southern Somalia but this has not been internationally recognised.
The region is a US ally in the fight against Islamist militants in Somalia.

Body parts
Puntland's President Mohamoud Musa Hirsi Adde said that the attacks in both regions were coordinated, reports the AFP news agency.
"The whole plan was organised from the same place and by the same people," he said.
Somaliland President Dahir Riyale Kahin says the government is ready to defend the country.

Somalia's problems are not security but political Seyoum MesfinEthiopian Foreign Minister

Regions and territories: SomalilandThe BBC's Jamal Abdi in Hargeisa says he saw body parts flying through the air after the attack on the Ethiopian consulate.
One of the buildings in the consulate was levelled to the ground and eight people were killed.
Our correspondent says the explosions shook surrounding buildings violently and there was gunfire after the last explosion.
He says the attacks came as a real shock to many people after years of peace.
Guards outside Somaliland's presidential palace opened fire on the attackers blocking them from entering the compound.
One car managed to get into the heavily fortified UNDP office complex before the explosives were detonated.
Eyewitnesses at the UNDP office said the attackers parked the car next to one of the buildings, which suffered the worst damage and heaviest casualties.
There is a lot of anxiety around the city and cars have been blocked from approaching the three locations.
There is no information about who was responsible for the three attacks, which took place within seven minutes of each other.
But some suspect Islamist insurgents, given the coordinated nature of the bombings and the targeting of Ethiopia.

Rare criticism
The al-Shabaab group, which the US describes as a terrorist organisation, refuses to join peace talks until Ethiopian troops agree to leave Somalia.

Most of the casualties were in the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa
Ethiopia helped forces of the interim government oust Islamists from the capital, Mogadishu, in 2006 - since when Islamists have staged regular attacks in the city.
The bombings come as regional leaders meet in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, to discuss the ongoing crisis in Somalia and the performance of the transitional federal government.
On Tuesday, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin made a rare criticism of the Somali government.
"Somalia's problems are not security but political," Mr Seyoum said, blaming disputes between the country's leaders for the prolonged crisis.
The transitional federal charter, which was adopted in 2004, expires next year when a constitution is supposed to be drafted and elections held.

Somaliland witness: 'Terrible day'

Part-time student Isahaq Hashi, 22, tells the BBC News website what he witnessed in the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa, after three car-bombs went off in a wave of coordinated attacks.
I was sitting at my desk in my office when I heard a high sound. I didn't know what it was but all I knew is that my office was shaking.
I had never heard such a thing. I just thought it was something in our work building.
We saw smoke. A lot of smoke and all blowing from the president's palace
Hargeisa resident Isahaq Hashi
Time didn't seem to pass.
Then there was another one but this time it was louder and closer. The first one was quite far away and we didn't know what was going on but when the next one went off, my four colleagues and I left our office. We knew something was not normal.
We saw smoke. A lot of smoke and all blowing from the president's palace.
One of my colleagues, who is much older than the rest of us, said it smelt like a bomb and he was saying that he thought it had been a bomb because he said he knew the sound. He was alive in the days before, when Somaliland was troubled.
Then many, many people were running towards us and past our office.
I didn't follow but I stopped some of them to ask what was happening. Some of them told me they had seen everything and had been standing close to the area and it was too bad. They said they had seen the bombs go off after people attacked the presidential palace using cars as bombs.
I ran to the Hargeisa General Hospital.
There was a mother at the hospital saying: 'My little baby' over and over again.
She had been at home but said a friend had seen her son near the place where the bombings happened. She was told that her son had been one of the victims. She no longer had shoes because she had run so fast to get to the hospital she lost them on the way.
She was crying and crying.
I don't know if she found her son.
The people at the hospital were very sad at what happened and many were crying too.
The ambulance was going back and back and back and back - getting the dead people and the injured.
I am feeling so sad for the people of Hargeisa. It is a terrible day.