Monday, 29 December 2008

Somalia's president quits office

Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was appointed president four years ago
Somalia's President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed has told parliament he is resigning.

The news comes a few days after the resignation of the man he had recently appointed as prime minister.
Ex-Prime Minister Mohamed Mahamud Guled quit last week saying his appointment was destabilising the government.
Mr Yusuf, elected four years ago, said he had failed to bring peace. The parliament speaker would take over leadership responsibilities.

'Failed in duty'
He addressed parliamentarians in Baidoa, saying: "As I promised when you elected me on October 14, 2004, I would stand down if I failed to fulfil my duty, I have decided to return the responsibility you gave me."
In his speech, broadcast on national radio, he said: "When I took power I pledged three things.
"If I was unable to fulfil my duty I will resign. Second, I said I will do everything in my power to make government work across the country. That did not happen either.
"Third, I asked the leaders to co-operate with me for the common good of the people. That did not happen," he said, according to Associated Press news agency.
Mr Yusuf had faced criticism for appointing Mr Guled in defiance of Somali MPs, who said the dismissal of his predecessor, Nur Hassan Hussein, two weeks previously, had been illegal.
The president had clashed in recent months with Mr Nur over attempts to negotiate a peace deal with the Islamist-led armed opposition.
Mohamed Mahamud Guled said he had chosen to resign "so that I am not seen as a stumbling block to the peace process which is going well now".
Somalia has been without an effective central government since President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Somali arms ban 'repeatedly broken'

Somalia has been largely lawless since Siad Barre was removed from power in 1991 [File: EPA]

A 16-year embargo on arms shipments to Somalia has been repeatedly violated, according to a United Nations report.
The illegal trafficking of weapons is fuelling the conflict between government forces, Ethiopian troops and armed opposition groups, with supplies financed by Eritrea arriving from Yemen, the UN report published on Friday read.
"Most serviceable weapons and almost all ammunition currently available in the country have been delivered since 1992, in violation of the embargo," the UN group monitoring the embargo said in the report. "Commercial imports, mainly from Yemen, remain the most consistent source of arms, ammunition and military material to Somalia."
Armed opposition groups have retaken control of large areas of the Horn of Africa nation, launching near daily attacks on the transitional government forces and their Ethiopian allies.
The report said breaches in the embargo are being financed from sources "including the government of Eritrea, private donors in the Arab and Islamic world and organised fund-raising activities among Somali diaspora groups".
Ethiopia and Eritrea, which have been accused of fighting a proxy-war in Somalia, have been in dispute over their shared border since a bloody conflict ended in 2000.
Criminal gangsThe report said that criminal gangs, including pirates operating off the coast, were adding to the lawlessness in the country and are "typically self-financing, employing the proceeds from piracy and kidnapping to procure arms, ammunition and equipment".

"Some of these groups now rival or surpass established Somali authorities in terms of their military capabilities and resource bases," it said.Earlier this week, the UN Security Council passed a resolution authorising the use of land operations against Somali pirates, who have captured dozens of ships and held hundreds of crew members for ransom over the past year.The Security Council on Friday voted for the mandate of the monitoring group, which recommends groups and individuals who should be blacklisted for their role in the arms trade, to be extended for another year.
Somalia's transitional government, which is based in the central town of Baidoa because of the security situation in the capital Mogadishu, has effective control over only a small part of the country. Somalia has had no effective government since a coup removed Siad Barre from power in 1991, leading to an almost total breakdown in law and order.

Somali group seeks Sharia expansion

Fighters with Al-Shabab, an armed group that has taken control of the southern city of Kismayu, have told Al Jazeera they plan to impose Islamic law across Somalia.
Kismayu, Somalia's third biggest city, was once one of the most dangerous places in the south of the country.
However, relative calm has been restored to Kismayu after the Al-Shabab Mujahideen Movement and one of its key allies, the Raaskambooni Camp Mujahideen, seized control of the city from local clans three months ago.
Abu Ayman, the leader of the Raaskambooni Camp Mujahideen, told Al Jazeera: "We want to use Kismayu as an example and a model of our rule to the rest of Somalia.
"Our aim is to get residents in faraway towns inviting us to come and govern them according to the way of Allah. The calm in Kismayu has benefited its down-trodden most."
Most of Kismayu’s residents agree with Ayman, saying they are now able to go about normal life without fear of attacks by marauding gangs of armed men who had terrorised them periodically for nearly 18 years.
"I remember times when young boys with knives used to rob us of our daily earnings. Now we can carry lots of money without any fear of being robbed," Mohammed Fundi, a porter and Kismayu resident, said.
Seyyid Ali, also a porter in the city, said: "We used to be sort of enslaved. When we load six lorries, we used to be paid for just one or two. Today we get wages equal to our output. We have justice here."

Peace, at a price
But Mohammed Adow, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Kismayu, said the apparent peace had come at a price.
In depth
“International aid agencies, the lifeline of Somalia’s poor, fled the town because of the fighting.
"They have still not returned as the Islamists have little tolerance for anything - or anyone – foreign," he said.
Adow said that "the suffering is huge as the poor are largely left to fend for themselves".
Kismayu has been left with just one hospital to serve the needs of nearly one million people from the city and surrounding areas.
The hospital used to be run by Medicins Sans Frontieres, who were forced to abandon the centre eight months ago after members of staff were killed.
Now, it is common for just one doctor to be on duty at a time, and medical supplies are dwindling.
Total breakdown
Dr Ali Hassan, who works at the hospital, said: “Our needs are many. Imagine a hospital like this operating without assistance from government or aid agencies. We have a shortage of drugs, equipment and staff are not motivated in any way."
Adow described the people of Kismayu as "numb to the myriad problems surrounding them".
"We used to be sort of enslaved... today we get wages equal to our output. We have justice here"
Seyyid Ali, porter and resident of Kismayu"They [residents] have survived the vagaries of war. They have weathered the almost 20 changes in Kismayu’s administrations over the past 18 years and its people have learned to live with and obey any group that has the upper hand," he said.
Somalia has had no effective government since a coup removed Siad Barre from power in 1991, leading to an almost total breakdown in law and order across most of the country.
The only relative stability experienced by some parts of the country came during the brief six-month rule of the Islamic Courts Union in 2006.
However, they were driven out of the capital Mogadishu, and other areas, by Ethiopian and government troops – sparking an upsurge in fighting.
Ethiopia is due to remove its troops from war-torn Somalia by the end of the year

Somali president 'to resign'

Somalia's newly appointed prime minister resigned earlier in the day to avoid a political standoff [AFP]

Abdullahi Yusuf, the Somali president, is expected to resign in the next few days, his spokesman said.
Hussein Mohamed Mohamud, a spokesman for the president, said on Wednesday: "The president has already written his resignation letter and he is expected to announce it on the coming Saturday."
Mohamud declined to give any further details on why the president would be stepping down, saying it "is not good for me to predict or explain his reasons".
However, Yusuf's office issued a statement to Al Jazeera denying the president intended to resign and that he would continue to lead the country.
The announcement came shortly after Mohamed Mohamud Guled, Somalia's newly appointed prime minister, resigned in an attempt to reconcile warring government factions.
Yusuf appointed Guled on December 16, after firing Nur Hassan Hussein.
"After evaluating the current situation in Somalia, I have decided to resign," Guled told reporters outside his home.
"I stood down so that I am not seen as a stumbling block to the peace process which is going on well now."
The Somali parliament refused to approve the appointment of Guled, and the international community also backed Hussein.
The African Union welcomed the news of Yusuf's expected resignation.
"If his decision is to resign, I would congratulate him," said Nicolas Bwakira, the African Union Commission's Special Representative for Somalia.
"It is, overall, a good move. It will give the opportunity to all parties to form a new leadership," he said. "It will resuscitate the peace process."

Saturday, 20 December 2008

UN chief rules out Somalia force

The time is not right to send United Nations peacekeepers to Somalia, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said.
On Tuesday US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for a UN force to be sent to the conflict-hit nation.
But Mr Ban said the situation in Somalia was too risky and there was no peace to keep.
There was also very limited world support for a multinational stabilisation force, he added, with few countries prepared to take part.
He had contacted 50 nations - but none had agreed to lead such a force and only one or two were willing to send troops, he said.
Somalia has not had an effective national government for 17 years, leading to a collapse of law and order.
Ethiopia-backed government forces have been fighting Islamist insurgents for the last two years, but the Ethiopian troops are due to pull out next month - leaving only the 3,200-strong African Union peacekeeping force behind.

'No peace to keep'
The danger of anarchy in Somalia was "clear and present", Mr Ban said, and action must be taken.
But he said conditions were not in place for sending peacekeepers.
"If there is no peace to keep, peacekeeping operations are not supposed to be there," the UN chief said.
Instead, he said, more efforts were needed on an inter-Somali peace process and to bolster the current African Union force.
His comments came a day after the Security Council unanimously approved a resolution allowing foreign military forces to pursue pirates on land in Somalia.
Pirates there are currently holding more than a dozen hijacked ships, while attacks in seas off Somalia have increased dramatically in recent months.
The resolution gives authority for one year for countries to use "all necessary measures" by land or air to stop anyone using Somali territory for piracy.

Ethiopia reaffirms Somali pullout

Ethiopia has reaffirmed that it will withdraw its forces from Somalia by the end of the month after confusion over its pullout dates.
Reporters in the Somali capital say residents in Mogadishu expected the troops to have gone by Friday, according to a UN-backed peace deal.
But Ethiopia's ambassador to the UK told the BBC the deadline has always been the end of December.
Ethiopia went into Somalia two years ago to help oust Islamist forces.
But different Islamist insurgent groups have been gaining ground in recent months and now control much of southern Somalia once more.
The Ethiopian and interim Somali government troops are limited to parts of Mogadishu and the central town of Baidoa, where parliament is based.
The conducive environment we created has not been properly used both by international community and the Somalis themselves
Berhanu KebedeEthiopian ambassador to the UK
Ethiopia's Somalia dilemma
The BBC's Mohamed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu says people in the capital believe the 120-day deadline for Ethiopia to be out of the country - as stipulated at the signing of the original Djibouti agreement in August - expires on Friday.
However, many issues leading up to the withdrawal have not been completed and have led to confusion over withdrawal dates.
"Our total withdrawal... will be by the end of this month, the prime minister has made it very clear," Berhanu Kebede, the Ethiopian ambassador to the UK, told the BBC Network Africa programme.
Our correspondent says in the past two weeks the Ethiopians have been setting up bases in villages along the tarmac road between the capital and Baidoa - their possible exit road.
A small African Union peacekeeping force has indicated it may leave with the Ethiopians unless it gets reinforcements.
Mr Berhanu said that Ethiopia's presence had given Somalis an opportunity to participate in political dialogue.
"The conducive environment we created has not been properly used both by international community and the Somalis themselves," he said.
About one million people have fled their homes - many after fierce fighting in Mogadishu between Islamists and the Ethiopia-backed government forces.
Some three million people need food aid - about one third of the population.
Somalia has not had a functioning national government since 1991 when warlords overthrew the regime of President Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other

Monday, 15 December 2008

Somaliland: Where is the Outrage?

I posted this article in Taking it Global on my personal blog and I really wanted to share this with you.

Somaliland: Where is the outrage?

After the recent targets in Somaliland by the extremist (Car Blasts), this question of Somaliland recognition kept popping in my head. What makes the international community silent about it?

On May 18th, 2008, Somaliland Republic (former British Somaliland) celebrates 17 years of self-rule and thriving democracy since it has decided to re-instate its sovereign independence from Somalia after the fall of Siad Barre regime in 1991. As a Somalilander myself who run away from Siad Barre's atrocities as a young man in the late 1980s and settled in the United States, I have a mixed feeling as I see my people celebrating the 17th anniversary of Somaliland's birth. On one hand, I am extremely proud of the people of Somaliland, and its leaders for what they were able to achieve for the past 17 years. On the other hand, I am less excited, and amazed by lack of African Union's role in leading the way to promote the Somaliland's cause by sending a strong signal to other African countries that they do care and reward for peace, stability, and democracy (acknowledging people's choice). It is very clear why European Union is very serious about the status of Kosovo. Answer: EU is planning to avoid risk of war and violence that would again destabilize the Balkans region. The million dollar question is why the African Union is not far sighted to avoid a potential and imminent war between Somalia's Southern Leaders, and Somaliland that will undermine the stability of the whole region?

Somali's Southern Leaders are not known to respect the rule of law and the wishes of its citizens, it is the main reason that Somaliland people are fully determined to fight for its sovereign status following its roots of independence time from Great Britain on June 26th, 1960. Thirty one countries that are members of the United Nations recognized Somaliland as an independent state before uniting with the Italian Somaliland on July 1st, 1960 to form what was known as Somali Republic. Somaliland is only seeking recognition within the borders received at that moment. Somaliland, not officially recognized by any state, has been functioning as constitutional democracy with a President directly elected by the people, added by a parliament and local government also directly elected by the people. Somaliland did not even have a university for 31 years of union with the southern Somalia, and today they have four universities despite its lack of recognition. They have four private owned telephone and mobile operators where they did not have any in the past 31 years of union with the South. And the list goes on.
Some people do not truly understand why people of Somaliland decided to go alone, and broke its partnership with the South. Some of the people even speculate that the issue of Somaliland is tied with the stability of the Southern Somalia, and the union will be back when the rest of the South becomes stable. As a matter of fact, there are many reasons why Somaliland re-took its independence, and broke its partnership, but in my personal view, I would only focus on two important reasons:
British Somaliland has voluntarily entered a union with Italian Somaliland in pursuit of irredentist dream of "Greater Somalia" (including parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti). It was very clear to everybody in both regions that it was never intended to stop with the union of the two regions, but to pursue the other 3 remaining regions. Therefore, that dream has effectively died when Djibouti got its independence in 1977, and decided to go alone without joining the existing union. If Djibouti people had that freedom to make that choice, it is only fair that the people of Somaliland can make similar choices to decide on their faith. The main argument here is that the Somali union in 1960 did not achieve the reason it has been formed which was a greater Somalia, and Somaliland's voluntary union at that time was based on that. And if that dream did not materialize, Somaliland could go alone like the other regions did where Somalis live including Djibouti, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
Another very crucial point that made the people of Somaliland go on separate ways from the South is the suffering and injustices that the people of Somaliland endured for 31 years of marriage. They have suffered at the hands of Southern rule governments particularly during Siad Barre's 21-year rule. The whole world knows that those governments even bombarded Somaliland cities. Therefore, it is a trust issue. If you had a business partnership with another person and you have suffered and lost everything, and you re-start your business. Would you again trust to create another partnership with that person? It is fair to say that the people of Somaliland have a trust issue with their brothers in the South, and will not join them again with union despite a lack of recognition by the International community. Most Somalilanders, who only know Somaliland because they were either young or born after Somaliland re-took its independence in 1991, would tell you that if there was such a Southern domination in the past, it is certainly a history, only refers the unity in the past tense.
It is important to note that AU sent a fact finding mission to Somaliland in 2005 in order to respond to the concern that Somaliland recognition would create a fragmentation of Somalia, or other AU member states, the African Union fact finding mission in 2005 concluded "the case should not be linked to the notion of "opening a Pandora box", and the report recommended that AU "should find a special method of dealing with this outstanding case" as soon as possible. Unfortunately, AU actions stopped there. Why we Africans can not decide for ourselves, while Europeans are doing so and EU leading the way. I hope I can one day be proud of our African leaders through the African Union leadership when I see that they are taking a far sighted approach like the EU doing on Kosovo.
The more the African Union delays dealing with the Somaliland case, the more it makes the situation in East Africa difficult, and risk of war, and even equally important the more the AU credibility is on the line. Somaliland case is a time bomb for the African Union and the International community could not really afford to ignore. On the other hand, Somaliland's multi-party democracy system is rarity in Africa, and the Muslim World, and the African Union needs to seriously consider Somaliland's formal application of AU membership to reward for people's choice. Somaliland is a state where the power truly belongs to the people.
But I still ask myself- where is the International Community outrage?

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Life in Somalia's pirate town

By Mary Harper BBC Africa analyst
Whenever word comes out that pirates have taken yet another ship in the Somali region of Puntland, extraordinary things start to happen.

There is a great rush to the port of Eyl, where most of the hijacked vessels are kept by the well-armed pirate gangs.
People put on ties and smart clothes. They arrive in land cruisers with their laptops, one saying he is the pirates' accountant, another that he is their chief negotiator.
With yet more foreign vessels seized off the coast of Somalia this week, it could be said that hijackings in the region have become epidemic.
Insurance premiums for ships sailing through the busy Gulf of Aden have increased tenfold over the past year because of the pirates, most of whom come from the semi-autonomous region of Puntland.
In Eyl, there is a lot of money to be made, and everybody is anxious for a cut.

Entire industry
The going rate for ransom payments is between $300,000 and $1.5m (£168,000-£838,000).
A recent visitor to the town explained how, even though the number of pirates who actually take part in a hijacking is relatively small, the whole modern industry of piracy involves many more people.

"The number of people who make the first attack is small, normally from seven to 10," he said.
"They go out in powerful speedboats armed with heavy weapons. But once they seize the ship, about 50 pirates stay on board the vessel. And about 50 more wait on shore in case anything goes wrong."
Given all the other people involved in the piracy industry, including those who feed the hostages, it has become a mainstay of the Puntland economy.
Eyl has become a town tailor-made for pirates - and their hostages.
Special restaurants have even been set up to prepare food for the crews of the hijacked ships.
As the pirates want ransom payments, they try to look after their hostages.
When commandos from France freed two French sailors seized by pirates off the Somali coast in September, President Nicolas Sarkozy said he had given the go-ahead for the operation when it was clear the pirates were headed for Eyl - it would have been too dangerous to try to free them from there.
The town is a safe-haven where very little is done to stop the pirates - leading to the suggestion that some, at least, in the Puntland administration and beyond have links with them.
Many of them come from the same clan - the Majarteen clan of the president of Somalia's transitional federal government, Abdullahi Yusuf.

Money to spend
The coastal region of Puntland is booming.
Fancy houses are being built, expensive cars are being bought - all of this in a country that has not had a functioning central government for nearly 20 years.
Observers say pirates made about $30m from ransom payments last year - far more than the annual budget of Puntland, which is about $20m.

A Canadian navy ship escorted a recent delivery of food aid to Somalia
When the president of Puntland, Adde Musa, was asked about the reported wealth of pirates and their associates, he said: "It's more than true".
Now that they are making so much money, these 21st Century pirates can afford increasingly sophisticated weapons and speedboats.
This means that unless more is done to stop them, they will continue to plunder the busy shipping lanes through the Gulf of Aden.
They even target ships carrying aid to feed their compatriots - up to a third of the population.
Warships from France, Canada and Malaysia, among others, now patrol the Somali coast to try and fend off pirate attacks.
An official at the International Maritime Organisation explained how the well-armed pirates are becoming increasingly bold.
More than 30% of the world's oil is transported through the Gulf of Aden.
"It is only a matter of time before something horrible happens," said the official.
"If the pirates strike a hole in the tanker, and there's an oil spill, there could be a huge environmental disaster".
It is likely that piracy will continue to be a problem off the coast of Somalia as long as the violence and chaos continues on land.
Conflict can be very good for certain types of business, and piracy is certainly one of them.
Weapons are easy to obtain and there is no functioning authority to stop them, either on land or at sea.

Indian navy 'captures 23 pirates'

The Indian navy says it has arrested 23 Somali and Yemeni pirates who tried to storm a ship in the Gulf of Aden.

A navy spokesman said it had responded to a mayday call from MV Gibe, flying under the Ethiopian flag.
Several countries have warships patrolling the gulf amid growing international concern about piracy.
Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said better intelligence was needed for a land attack on pirate bases to be considered.
Mr Gates, speaking at a security conference in Bahrain, also called for shipping companies to do more to protect their vessels travelling through the Arabian Sean and Indian Ocean.

Arms cache
The Indian government said in a statement that the captured pirates had a cache of arms and equipment, including seven AK-47 assault rifles, three machine guns, and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
The pirates would be handed over to the appropriate authorities, the statement added.
Last month, India's navy said it had sunk a pirate "mother vessel" off Somalia.
But it later emerged that the vessel was actually a Thai fishing trawler that had been seized by pirates off Yemen.
Better intelligence
Mr Gates told the security conference: "The need for increased maritime security and potentially new and better means of co-operation has been highlighted by the recent high-profile acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.

"As with terrorism, piracy is a problem that has serious international implications and should be of particular concern to any nation that depends on the seas for commerce."
Mr Gates said most ships could outrun the pirates and they should take more preventative measures, like pulling up their ladders when at sea and perhaps placing armed guards on board.
When asked by the BBC if the US intended to attack the pirates' land bases, Mr Gates replied that the US and its allies would first need to acquire better intelligence on who is behind the ongoing attacks on shipping.
He said he believed that just two or three Somali clans were responsible and that the individuals involved needed to be targeted accurately to avoid killing innocent civilians.

Somalia's president sacks his PM

Mr Hussein says the president does not have the power to fire him

The Somali President, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, has sacked PM Nur Hassan Hussein and the interim government.
At a news conference in Baidoa, the president said Mr Hussein, who was sworn into office in November 2007, had failed to bring security to Somalia.
The move follows tension between the two in recent months over attempts to deal with the Islamist-led opposition.
However Mr Hussein told AFP news agency that the president alone did not have the power to remove him from office.
Somalia has not had a functioning national government since President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.
The current transitional government, faced with an insurgency, is dependent on international aid and Ethiopian military support to function.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

AU soldier killed in Somalia

Mogadishu - A soldier serving with African Union forces in Somalia was killed in fighting with Islamist insurgents in the war-torn capital Mogadishu, a military spokesperson said Wednesday.The Burundi soldier died of injuries sustained in the clash late on Tuesday near his contingent's southern Mogadishu base, Burundi army spokesperson Clement Cinen said."The fighting in the former military academy last night, where our forces are based, left one of our soldiers injured but unfortunately he died later in hospital," Cinen said."There were no other casualties in that fighting."Islamist insurgents often target the AU peacekeeping force as well as Ethiopian backed government forces who regained control of much of the country from the militants in early 2007.
Burundi has a total of 1 700 soldiers in Somalia with the 3 400-strong AU force, which is expected to eventually number 8 000.Former African leaders in the AU's Panel of the Wise urged the United Nations to form a stabilisation force for Somalia after Ethiopia announced last week it would withdraw its troops by the end of the year, sparking fears of a security vacuum.
- Sapa-AFP

Mogadishu gets ambulance service

The new fleet of ambulances will be based in the centre of Mogadishu

The conflict-wracked Somali capital of Mogadishu has an ambulance service for the first time in nearly two decades.
Five ambulances with a team of nurses will answer calls from patients to a new 24-hour emergency 777 helpline.
A BBC reporter in the capital says wounded people, many bleeding to death, are usually transported to the city's hospitals on wheelbarrows or taxis.
Somalia has been engulfed by chaos since President Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991.
The volatile capital is the scene of frequent battles between Islamist forces and government soldiers, backed by Ethiopian troops who have been in the country for two years.

Top priority
The BBC's Mohamed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu says the new fleet of ambulances will be based in the city's main market, the stage for many bloody confrontations.

Under the free service, introduced on Tuesday, casualties with serious and life-threatening conditions will receive top priority.
The scheme was provided with the help of Irish-based charity Lifeline Africa Foundation.
"People have been taken on wheelbarrows to the hospitals so we want to end that," Rufa'i Mohamed Salad, of Lifeline Africa in Mogadishu, said.
A telecommunication firm in Mogadishu, NationLink, installed the new helpline and its operators will divert 777 calls from their control room to new ambulance despatch centres.
The system has been welcomed by residents and medics.
Dr Dahir Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud, the head of Mogadishu's Medina Hospital, said: "I am very happy because it is the first time we've witnessed it. It is a medical step forward."