Tag Archives: Somalia

China to open military base in Djibouti near US special forces

RFI

Historic’ Chinese military base to open in Horn of Africa

Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh: China "welcome"

Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh: China “welcome”

AFP
By Michel Arseneault

China is negotiating a military base in the strategic port of Djibouti, an historic development that would see the US and China each have bases in the small nation that guards the entrance to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. President Ismail Omar Guelleh says that discussions are “ongoing” and that Beijing is “welcome”.

Djibouti is already home to Camp Lemonnier, the military headquarters used by US Special Forces for covert, anti-terror and other operations in Yemen and in Africa. France, the former colonial master, and Japan also have bases in the port, which is used by many foreign navies to fight piracy in neighbouring Somalia.

Djibouti’s president said China, a major trading partner for both Djibouti and its landlocked neighbour Ethiopia, is welcome.

“France’s presence is old, and the Americans found that the position of Djibouti could help in the fight against terrorism in the region,” Guelleh told AFP. “The Japanese want to protect themselves from piracy, and now the Chinese also want to protect their interests, and they are welcome.”

China refused to confirm or deny on Monday that it was establishing a military base in the Horn of Africa.

“Maintenance of peace and stability in the region is in line with the interests of related countries,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters. “It’s also the common aspiration of Djibouti, China and other countries in the world.”

China signed a security and defence agreement with Djibouti in February 2014. But a Chinese military base in Djibouti, the first in Africa, “would definitely be historic”, according to David Shinn, a former US ambassador to Ethiopia.

The US was reportedly angry about the conclusion last year of the China-Djibouti defence deal last year. But Shinn predicts that the US will take it in its stride.

“They might be a little concerned about what this (expansion well beyond the western Indian Ocean) means for the future,” he said in an interview from Washington. “But as far as a base in Djibouti, particularly a modest base, is concerned, I’d be surprised if there was great unhappiness about it.”

China is reportedly considering a permanent military base in Obock, Djibouti’s northern port city.

“China clearly has a goal of building a blue-water navy, which means it will at some point go well beyond the east coast of Africa and the western Indian Ocean, and it has to think — long term — about how it would be able to service its naval vessels as they go further and further, ” he explained.

Camp Lemonnier, home to 4,000 American citizens, is in the south-east of Djibouti. The US earlier this month signed a 20-year lease, indicating its willingness to stay. Terms of the lease were not disclosed.

A new Chinese deep-sea port in Djibouti would be a new ” pearl” in China’s “string of pearls strategy”, according to analyst and writer Robert Mason, author of The International Politics of the Arab Spring.

It could provide a boost to China’s sphere of influence, which already extends from the South China Sea, along the west coast of Myanmar to the Arabian-Sea coastal port of Gwadar, Pakistan — a major destination in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

“Establishing these deep-sea ports is really about securing its economic interests, projecting influence and securing oil exports from the Gulf region,” Mason explained in a phone interview from Cairo.

“It’s perfectly rational for the Chinese to establish that type of instrastructure, not only for anti-piracy but also because it’s a key maritime route,” said Africa political military analyst Lesley Anne Warner. “I don’t want to use the word alarming, but what’s happening is a departure from China’s role in Africa, which has until now been primarily economically focussed.”

Its business interests are important in both Djibouti and neighbouring Ethiopia. Trade between Africa and China, in excess of 200 billion dollars (180 billion euros), is above the continent’s trade with the European Union or the US.

In Djibouti, China is already financing major infrastructure projects estimated to total more than 9 billion dollars (8 billion euros), including improved ports, airports and railway lines.

“Money talks, especially in small and underdeveloped states run by authoritarian governments such as Djibouti — and soon Beijing, not Washington, may have the strongest voice,” wrote Hudson Institute senior fellow John Lee in the current issue of Foreign Affairs.

There was speculation that Russia also wanted to establish a presence in Djibouti, but the presence of Russian warships may have created even more controversy in western nations because of the crisis in the Ukraine.

 

You can follow Michel Arseneault on Twitter @miko75011

Somalia – Kerry visits Mogadishu

DW/allAfrica

Somalia: John Kerry Makes Historic Trip to Somalia

Photo: United States Departmant of State

On May 5, 2015 Secretary Kerry landed in Mogadishu, Somalia to reinforce the U.S. commitment to supporting Somalia’s ongoing transition to a peaceful democracy. This is the first ever Secretary of State visit to Somalia.

The US Secretary of State has arrived in Mogadishu, the first ever to do so. Kerry hailed the progress made against al-Shabab, but did not venture further than the airport amidst security concerns.

In a show of solidarity with a Somalia that is “turning around” in the fight against al Qaeda-linked militants after decades of war, US Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced visit to Somalia on Tuesday, a historical first.

The US has assisted the Somali government by carrying out drone strikes against the al-Shabab jihadists, but Kerry’s trip is the highest-level visit from the US since the ‘Black Hawk Down’ incident in 1993 that left 18 Americans dead.

Indeed, although Kerry praised the progress Mogadishu has made, the fact that his entire trip took place at the airport highlighted just how unstable the nation remains.

Indeed, the secretary of state spent only three hours at Mogadishu before flying off to Kenya.

“The net time I come, we have to be able to just walk downtown,” Kerry said to President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. Downtown, the president answered, “is very different now.”

Turning the tide against the terrorists

The terrorist activity has left Somalia without a government that can operate nationwide for two and a half decades. However, African forces combined with American airstrikes have crippled the al-Shabab leadership in recent years, their territory has been drastically reduced and their cash flow hindered.

“Over the past quarter century, you have known immense suffering from violence, from criminals, from sectarian strife, from dire shortages of food, and from an inability to remain safely even within your villages and homes,” Kerry said in his address, adding “I visited Somalia today because your country is turning around.”

The push back against al-Shabab has however also had the negative consequence of causing the terrorists to expand their efforts in neighboring countries such as Kenya. Last month, a massacre at Kenya’s Garissa University College killed 148 people, mostly students.

es/jil (AP, AFP, dpa)

Somalia’s government bans al-Shabab name from media

BBC

Al-Shabab fighters (file photo)
Al-Shabab, which is affiliated to al-Qaeda, controls many rural parts of southern Somalia

The Somali government has told media houses to stop referring to militant group al-Shabab by their name.

They instead want the group to be called Ugus, an acronym for the Somali words meaning “the Group that Massacres the Somali People”.

Al-Shabab responded by saying the Somali government should be referred to by the same acronym, Ugus.

In this case, Ugus means “the Group that Subjects the Somali People to Humiliation”.

Al-Shabab, which is affiliated to al-Qaeda, controls many rural parts of southern Somalia.

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picture of live page

African news at it happens: 4 May 2015

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The head of Somalia’s Intelligence and Security Services Gen Abdirahman Mohamud Turyare told journalists that al-Shabab, which means the youth in Arabic, was “a good name”.

“We should not allow this good name to be dirtied. This enemy we are fighting is called Ugus.”

Gen Turyare was speaking at the headquarters of information ministry in front of journalists and information ministry officials.

However, no mention was made of the punishment for anyone who flouted the ban.

The government-controlled Radio Mogadishu and SNTV have already been using the term for a while.

Ugus is an acronym for Ururka Gumaadka Ummadda Soomaaliyeed.

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Analysis: Abdullahi Abdi, BBC News, Nairobi

The propaganda war between the Somali government and al-Shabab has been going on since 2009, when al-Shabab declared war on the then president of the Transitional Federal Government, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. Since then, the two sides have been exchanging derogatory messages through their media outlets.

Journalists in Somalia are now in a difficult position. They will have to either obey this order and face the wrath of al-Shabab, or refuse to comply with the government directive and face the consequences. The government has previously arrested journalists and shut down radio stations on accusations of endangering national security.

Kenya – sugarsmuggling link with Somalia’s Al Shabaab 

Nation

Al-Shabaab-linked sugar smugglers still in business after attack

Sugar-smugglers whose activities have been linked to Al-Shabaab are still in business, 3 weeks after Garissa University attack.

 

Sugar-smugglers whose activities have been linked to Al-Shabaab are still in business, three weeks after one of the terror group’s deadliest attacks in Kenya that killed 148 people.
Investigations by the Saturday Nation reveal that none of the sugar barons were named in the list of 86 companies and individuals whose accounts were frozen on allegations of supporting terrorism.
Reports by the United Nations and a US government agency say there are about 70 businessmen — located in the Somali port city of Kismayu and in Garissa and Nairobi in Kenya — who are brokers in the sugar and charcoal trade. 
Garissa was the scene of the latest attack, on April 2, by Al-Shabaab in which 142 university students and six security officers were killed.
Reports say the businesses earn the militant group millions of dollars which they use in their terror campaign.

According to a report prepared jointly by the United Nations Environmental Programme (Unep) and Interpol, Al-Shabaab’s primary source of income appears to be from informal taxation at roadblocks.

“In one roadblock case, they have been able to make up to $8 million (Sh696 million) to $18 million (Sh1.5 billion) per year from charcoal traffic in Somalia’s Badhadhe District,” says the Unep/Interpol report, adding that trading in charcoal and taxing the ports have generated an estimated annual total of $38 million to $56 million for Al-Shabaab.

Earnings from the trade are vital in sustaining the terrorists’ capacity to carry out attacks in Somalia and Kenya.

Kismayu has been controlled by Kenya Defence Forces(KDF) since they captured it from Al-Shabaab in September 2012, cutting off the group’s finances but the militants have since moved into the hinterland where they rake in money at roadblocks.

SENIOR POLITICIAN

Although the reports do not name individuals, the Saturday Nation has established that one of the biggest sugar smugglers based in Garissa is related to a senior politician.

He has been operating a lucrative smuggling ring between the port of Kismayu and Garissa, that brings in millions of dollars a year.

The sugar trade has boomed since KDF went into Somalia in late 2011 and has overtaken charcoal as southern Somalia’s leading cross-border trade commodity.

The smuggler has a fleet of trucks that operate between Garissa and Kismayu. On their way to Kismayu they carry Kenyan food and consumer goods and on their way back, they are loaded with hundreds of bags of contraband sugar imported from Brazil.

“There are five checkpoints between Kismayu and Garissa – three by Al-Shabaab and two by the KDF. The sugar trucks are waved through all the checkpoints without any checks. There is a tacit agreement between the owner and these entities and we are sure hefty sums of money change hand in the form of illegal ‘taxes’,” said the source.

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) office at the Liboi border crossing is also implicated in the scam, through “creative invoicing” or by simply not declaring.

The trucks are also known to use the Kolbio border post where they are driven to Lamu and Mombasa and resold to middle-men as “customed” sugar. They are repackaged and made to look like local sugar.

With Mumias Sugar, Kenya’s biggest producer of the commodity in financial doldrums, sugar importation has become even more lucrative.
The news could undermine confidence in the list of terror associates.

Intriguingly, while the list included two human rights groups — Muhuri and Haki Africa — and money transfer firms, none of the sugar barons was listed.

It also contains names of clerics who the government has been collaborating with to tackle jihadism and youth radicalisation in Kenya’s Somali-speaking communities.

Sheikh Ummal, a prominent Eastleigh-based cleric, whose name was in the list, has protested his innocence. Sheikh Ummal has consistently criticised Al-Shabaab’s campaign of terror and its intransigence and refusal to seek a political settlement.

He is immensely influential and his anti-Shabaab messages are often relayed on Somali satellite TV channels, earning him death threats from Al-Shabaab.
“This is the kind of guy the government should keep on its side in its ideological fight against jihadism and Al-Shabaab,” a Somali security source told the Saturday Nation.

LACK OF INFORMATION

Those who have been named in the list and have appeared before the counter-terrorism police unit have been shocked at the state agents’ lack of information on the subject.

Father Gabriel Dolan of Muhuri who appeared before the unit together with his fellow board members, said: ‘’We expected a ‘grilling’ and to be furnished with substantive allegations and evidence linking Muhuri with the Al-Shabaab murderers. However, nothing of the sort emerged.

Instead, we faced a team of tired, bored NIS officials who did not want to be identified nor unduly bothered and whose task was merely to give out a fourteen-page document to be filled, returned and ‘you will be hearing from us in two weeks.

“The whole thing may have been sloppy, unprofessional and lacking any shape or direction but the IG Boinett and his NCTC team had already condemned the two organisations by freezing their accounts and now in utter contempt of the Constitution and the rule of law, the burden of proof fell on them to prove their innocence,” Fr Dolan wrote in his weekly column in the Saturday Nation.

The KRA has also raided the two rights groups’ offices, carting away documents and computers for tax audits.

Meanwhile, for the big boys in the sugar and charcoal trade, it is business as usual.

Elements of the KDF have been accused of colluding with Al-Shabaab in the illegal multi-billion-shilling charcoal trade.

In 2014, a report by a US government-funded organisation, which echoed earlier findings by the United Nations, alleged that the KDF mission to Somalia appears to include the charcoal trade.

“Kenya, although formally a participant in Amisom, which operates in support of the Somali national government, is also complicit in support of trade that provides income to Al-Shabaab, its military opponent both inside Somalia and, increasingly, at home in Kenya,” the Institute of Defence Analyses (IDA) said in its report by Mr George Ward, formerly Washington’s ambassador to Namibia.

Kenya’s military chiefs have previously denied allegations of involvement in any illicit activity in Somalia and have maintained that since October 2011, they have only engaged in military action aimed at stabilising the war-torn country. But the accusations have refused to go away.

While businesses of the sugar and charcoal barons boom, most of Garissa town is facing an economic crisis following the attack on the university college.

Traders in the county who spoke to the Saturday Nation said they had been incurring heavy losses since the attack and the dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed by Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet.

Police have also been accused of using the curfew to extort money from residents. 

Somalia – government wants to drive Al Shabab from southern valley strongold

Reuters

World Thu Apr 23, 2015 5:07pm BST

Somalia seeks to drive militants from southern valley bases – PM

(Reuters) – Somali and African forces aim to drive al Shabaab Islamist militants out of one of the last major tracts of territory in southern Somalia that the group still holds and which it uses to launch attacks, the Somali prime minister said on Thursday.

Omar Sharmarke also told Reuters he was pressing Kenya to reopen Somali money transfer firms that are a lifeline to many in Somalia but whose licences Nairobi suspended after al Shabaab raided a north Kenyan university this month killing 148 people.

Al Shabaab has been driven out of major towns and coastal strongholds since an African Union peacekeeping force and the Somali national army launched an offensive last year.

But the group, which wants to topple Somalia’s Western-backed government, still holds rural areas, such as the Juba valley corridor that leads to the strategic southern port of Kismayu, where a Kenyan contingent of AU troops is based.

“There is a corridor they use as a launching pad,” Sharmarke said in an interview. “There are efforts to close down this corridor which they have been using for the last few years.”

He did not give a timeline for any new operation.

To keep militants out of Kenya, Somalia’s southern neighbour is improving border security, including building new observation posts and barriers, often referred to as a “wall”. Sharmarke said rooting out the militants was a better tactic.

“We have to close the vacuums they use as a launching pads rather than put a wall between families and communities,” Sharmarke said in Nairobi after talks with Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed.

The Somali prime minister also said Kenya was working on new regulations so Somali money transfer firms, known as “hawalas”, could be reopened, adding Kenya’s central bank was leading the process. He said temporary measures were being considered while permanent rules were being drawn up, but did not indicate when the transfer firms would be permitted to reopen.

“Millions depend on hawalas and there are now efforts to see whether, in the interim, these hawalas could be opened.”

Kenya’s central bank had no comment on the remarks but referred to an earlier statement that noted concerns about informal remittance firms and “the global challenges of money laundering and terrorism financing.”

Many of the remittance firms have also been shut down in the United States and other Western nations because of rules aimed at preventing cash reaching al Shabaab.

Sharmarke said he planned to visit Washington in the next few weeks to discuss the issue, while his government planned to push through new Somali anti-money laundering legislation.

Kenya has also announced a three month timetable to close Dadaab, a camp where some 335,000 Somali refugees are housed.

Sharmarke said any action to repatriate the refugees should be done responsibly and only when it was safe. A botched repatriation would help the militants by alienating people, he said.

“We cannot play into the hands of al Shabaab and other terrorists out there. We should not create political discontent out of this repatriation,” he said.

(Editing by Peter Graff)

Somalia – US drone kills Al Shabab leader

BBC

US drone kills al-Shabab leader in Somalia – Pentagon

Armed members of the militant group al-Shabab attend a rally on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia in this February 2012 file photo. Al-Shabab militants have been driven out of the group’s strongholds in Somalia

The US defence department has confirmed that it has killed an al-Shabab leader, Adan Garar.

The Pentagon says the militant was hit by a drone equipped with Hellfire missiles in southern Somalia last Friday.

Garar was a suspect in the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi that left 67 people dead.

The US believes Garar was overseeing operations that “target US persons and other Western interests”.

He was a member of the security and intelligence wing and a “key operative responsible for coordinating al-Shabab’s external operations”, according to the Pentagon.

The operation took place about 150 miles (240 km) west of Mogadishu near the town of Dinsoor.

Soldiers and armed police hunt gunmen who went on a shooting spree in Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi 21 September 2013. Garar is accused of planning the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi that killed 67 people

Washington has supported an African Union (AU) force, which has driven the fundamentalist group from strongholds across Somalia since 2011.

The US defence department said in a statement that Garar’s death “has dealt another significant blow to the al-Shabab terrorist organisation in Somalia”.

Hours before the Pentagon confirmed the news, an al-Shabab attack killed four in north-east Kenya.

The militant group has vowed to punish Kenya for its role in the AU force.

Somalia – government forces claim capture of town from Al Shabab

Radio Dalsan (Mogadishu)

Somali government Forces capture new town from Al-shabab

Somali Federal government forces backed by AU troops seized new Al-shabab ground in Somalia’s lower Shabelle region on Monday. The joint forces captured Ali-gaduud, which was Al-shabab’s key hideout in the region.

The government forces and Al-shabaab have exchanged heavy gunfire confrontations shortly after the force’s attack on the terror base. Officials who spoke to media said that many al-shabab fighters were captured during the raid.

“We have killed at least three Al-shabab members, they accustomed to collect money from the villagers living in Ali Gaduud area “government spokesman, who wished to remain anonymous said.

The Al-Qaida affiliated militants, Al-shabab has been controlling the village for more than twelve months despite Masajid Ali-gaduud was an important junction for vehicles heading to Somali capital, Mogadishu.

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