Tag Archives: Somalia

Somalia – fighting in Galkayo kills 29

Reuters

By Abdiqani Hassan | GAROWE, SOMALIA

Fighting between regional militias in a city in central Somalia killed at least 29 people and wounded more than 50, officials from both sides said on Monday.

The latest in a spate of clashes in Galkayo, a city divided between the semi-autonomous regions of Puntland and Galmudug, erupted on Sunday following a dispute over building plans.

Col. Mohamed Aden, a Puntland military officer, said 16 soldiers serving in the region’s armed forces had been killed and 30 wounded.

The mayor of southern Galkayo, Hirsi Yusuf Barre, said the toll on the Galmudug side was 13 dead and 20 wounded.

Doctors at hospitals in north and south Galkayo, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, put the overall death toll at at least 50.

Both militias offer political support to Somalia’s U.N.-backed government, based in the capital Mogadishu. But the clashes between them underscore the tenuous grip it exerts on Somalia’s powerful regions.

Civil war has been raging in Somalia for 25 years.

The government is due to hold twice-delayed parliamentary elections by the end of 2016, but the threat from al Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group al Shabaab means only 14,000 people, representing federal states, will be eligible to vote.

(Reporting by Abdiqani Hassan and Abdi Sheikh; writing by Katharine Houreld; editing by John Stonestreet)

Al Shabaab attacks intensify in Somalia

Reuters

By Katharine Houreld | NAIROBI

Islamist rebels have intensified their attacks in Somalia, detonating larger, more sophisticated devices, bringing in more foreign expertise and doubling the death toll from last year, experts said.

The surge in violence threatens an upcoming presidential vote and the reconstruction of a nation whose population is already leaving in droves, swelling a global migrant crisis, analysts and academics told Reuters.

The findings, some of them also outlined in a coming U.N. report, reveal the challenge facing Somalia’s Western-backed government as it battles militants who want to overthrow it and impose their harsh version of sharia, or Islamic law.

Security experts say the plot behind a plane attack in February in particular showed the expanding skillset of al Qaeda-aligned al Shabaab militants and possible links to Islamist insurgencies in the Middle East and other areas.

Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, killed 470 people in Somalia in the first seven months of 2016, up from just under 200 for all of 2015 and fewer than 50 in 2010, according to figures given to Reuters by Nairobi-based thinktank Sahan Research.

Al Shabaab insurgents detonated five truck bombs in Somalia this year, punching through defensive barriers at military camps and other sites that car bombs would have struggled to penetrate, said Greg Robin, an IED expert at Nairobi-based thinktank Sahan Research. Truck bombs were previously rare.

SHAPED CHARGES

“They have access to large amounts of explosives,” Robin said, adding some bombs were estimated to weigh 400kg or more. Car bombs generally used 100 to 150 kg, he said, since more explosives would weigh down the car and be more easily detected.

Islamists are also increasingly using shaped charges, Robin said, although exact statistics were not available.

The shape directs the blast to a small area, and can sometimes penetrate armour. They are commonly used in Iraq and Afghanistan. Somali officials said shaped charges were used between 20 to 40 times in the past two years.

“The standardisation of IED construction and components seems to reinforce the hypothesis that IEDs are manufactured in one key location and/or by one key network of bomb makers,” Robin wrote in a recent presentation. “The IEDs appear to be distributed from one supply chain.”

The U.N. report seen by Reuters reported on shaped charges and said investigators “obtained information … on the presence of a number of foreign IED trainers with experience gained in conflict zones such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.”

The use of pressure plates as triggers was also increasing again, said Robin. Devices triggered by pressure go off when the target is directly above them, making them more accurate than more common radio-controlled devices.

“These IEDs aren’t new in Somalia, but they used to be rare, with fewer than six devices of that type confirmed in all of 2015. Their prevalence suggests new factories for production,” said Gregory Joachim, executive director at Bancroft Global Development, a U.S. organisation training Somali police.

THREAT TO AVIATION

Somali troops and African Union (AU) forces are frequent targets in the country that lies on a vital maritime route. The AU force did not respond to requests for comment.

An attempt to bring down a Daallo Airlines plane flying from Mogadishu to Djibouti in February revealed a complex understanding of bomb-making, aviation and airport security experts said.

The bomb blew a hole in the fuselage but an early detonation at low altitude saved the plane from breaking up midair.

“The threat to aviation is definitely new, more sophisticated,” Bancroft’s Marc Frey said, adding that U.S. authorities concerned by the device’s ability to evade detection circulated images to U.S. airports.

A report prepared by U.N.-appointed experts monitoring Somalia said the bomb was smuggled onto the plane in a briefcase with the help of accomplices at Mogadishu airport and the bomber secured a window seat above the wing and fuel tank.

“The sophistication of the device suggests it may have been constructed with foreign technical assistance,” the U.N. report said. “The same explosion at a higher altitude would have led to a catastrophic accident.”

The original target was a Turkish Airlines flight, but that was cancelled, the U.N. said. Another bomb attempt was foiled at Somalia’s Beledweyne airport.

(The story fixes typo in the second paragraph)

(Editing by Edmund Blair and Andrew Heavens)

Somalia’s perpetual state of transition

Institute for Security Studies

Delays in Somalia’s election process continue to raise concerns.
03 NOV 2016  /  BY PETER FABRICIUS

Somalia’s legislative elections missed a key deadline last week, risking a third delay and raising more serious questions about whether the deeply troubled country will ever make it out of its open-ended transition phase to become a real democracy. Four of the six federal states completed the election of members of the new upper house of the Somali Federal Parliament. But voting for the more important lower house – The People’s House – which was supposed to start on 23 October and run through to 10 November, had not begun.

This raised some doubts about whether or not Parliament would be able to perform its first duty of electing a new president on 30 November, who would appoint a new prime minister, who would in turn appoint a cabinet.

The failure of clan elders and others involved to complete the process of choosing an electoral college, to elect the 275 members of the lower house, provoked a strong rebuke from the international community. In a rare joint statement, the United Nations (UN), African Union, Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, Ethiopia, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States expressed ‘grave concerns’ over allegations of corruption and the intimidation of prospective candidates for Parliament, electoral college delegates and election officials.

Michael Keating, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, warned this week that: ‘The electoral process is reaching a pivotal moment’ and that the continual delays, intimidation and vote-buying ‘are now raising serious questions about the integrity and credibility of the process.’

It is not the logistical challenges familiar to many other African elections – of getting ballots and other materials to thousands of polling stations scattered around the country – which is causing the delay. Only 14 025 people out of Somalia’s population of some 12 million may vote in this election; and they are to do so in just a few federal state capitals.

Even so, that is an improvement. The Transitional Federal Government, which ran the country from 2000 to 2012, was chosen by the 135 clan elders. The current Federal Government of Somalia was established after the last election/selection in 2012, but remained, in effect, not much less transitional than the previous one.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was voted in by an elected legislature in 2012, promised that the next elections, this year, would at last be on the basis of universal franchise.

But that didn’t happen for several reasons.  As Institute for Security Studies researcher Omar Mahmood has pointed out, logistical problems were among these reasons. The country had not completed a census or a voter’s roll. But he suggests the biggest delaying factor was that the violent extremist Islamist group al-Shabaab still poses a major security threat. It has vowed to disrupt even the limited election proposed. If all eligible Somalis were to have voted in thousands of polling stations across the country, the threat would have been so much greater.

Mahmood also cites lack of political will – in effect the reluctance by some politicians who control the country – as another possible factor that kicked universal franchise down the track again.

In the absence of universal franchise, the country’s leadership decided to extend voting rights just a little bit beyond those 135 clan elders by adding another step to the electoral process. The 135 clan elders would choose an electoral college of 51 members for each of the 275 Parliamentary seats, providing a total of 14 025 electors who would cast secret ballots to elect the lower house.

So the electorate has increased since 2012, in an attempt ‘to moderate the perception that is a purely elite-driven process,’ as Mahmood says. ‘But in a country of some 12 million, that’s still just a drop in the ocean.’

And those 135 clan elders still wield enormous power by selecting the electors. The clan elders are still composed on the 4.5 formula that has dominated Somali politics for a long time; meaning the four biggest clans are equally represented and the smaller clans get half that representation.

Mahmood said while some wanted to drop this system and move towards conventional party-based politics, other clans wouldn’t budge. He adds that those pushing for more conventional politics may be doing it because they feel they can gain more from it, not necessarily from any love of democracy.

Still, as he says, the 2016 electoral procedures are a step in the right direction, making the government a little more inclusive, both politically and geographically. In 2012 the lower house was selected in Mogadishu only. In 2016, it is to be elected in Mogadishu as well the federal state capitals. The upper house, representing the six federal states and selected by their presidents, is an important new institution, Mahmood says.

‘The federal states can no longer say decisions made in Mogadishu don’t involve them,’ he says. ‘It adds legitimacy to legislation passed by Parliament.’

And increasing the number of electors from 135 to 14 025 should also decrease the opportunities for corruption and manipulation. Those were rife in 2012. And he notes that at least 30% of the lower house MPs are supposed to be women, and some 20% of the electorate for each of the 275 seats should be youths, in an effort to increase diversity. But he adds that the current Parliament selected in 2012 was also supposed to have at least 30% women, but in fact has only 14%.

Mahmood also states that despite the tight grip that the clan elders still have on Somalia’s politics, the 4.5 formula represents the reality of the country. He cites a recent poll done by the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies in Mogadishu, which found that 79% of respondents believed one-person, one-vote was simply not feasible yet.

‘That gives some breathing space,’ he says. But the poll also found the approval rating of the current government was extremely low, and that 60% opposed any extension of its mandate.

These results put a lot of pressure on the 2020 elections to be significantly more inclusive. And they also add pressure for an end to the seemingly perpetual postponements of this 2016 election.

Mahmood said these delays provide further opportunities for manipulation of the results and raise worrying questions about who was benefitting.

But he also notes that with federal state formation still effectively a work in progress in some areas, despite the last-minute agreement to establish the Hiiraan-Shabelle state, there is a converse risk of rushing to elections and thereby freezing some players out of the process – a recipe for future conflict.

Al-Shabaab, he notes, has successfully recruited members from such disaffected players in the political process before, and could do so again.

He notes that given the continued issues, there is speculation that the 2016 elections might not be completed before 2017. Nonetheless, he says: ‘Even if 2016 is still something of an elite-driven process, the hope is that there are some capable elites who can still steer the country in the right direction, rather than the election merely being an income-generating activity for those involved.’

Moving in the right direction would certainly be helpful. But whether Somalia can become truly democratic by 2020 is doubtful, especially with al-Shabaab still menacing. The contributors to the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia – which is keeping al-Shabaab at bay – have vowed to start pulling out in 2018 and to be all out by 2020.

That would be on the very eve of the next elections.

Peter Fabricius, ISS Consultant

Somalia – seven soldiers killed in fighting between Puntland and Galmadug

Reuters

By Abdiqani Hassan and Abdi Sheikh | MOGADISHU

At least seven people were killed in weekend fighting between soldiers from two semi-autonomous regions of Somalia, officials from both sides said on Sunday, sparking fears of wider conflict.

The clashes which broke out on Saturday pitted forces from Puntland with those of Galmudug, the latest flare-up over a disputed area straddling their border.

The two sides are fighting in the town of Galkayo, which is divided between clan militias loyal to the different regions.

Hirsi Yusuf Barre, the mayor of Galkayo south, accused soldiers from Puntland of launching attacks first on Saturday.

“We lost three soldiers and 11 others were injured. We burned three vehicles belonging to Puntland,” he told Reuters on Sunday.

Major Mohamed Ibrahim, a military officer in Puntland, said four soldiers were killed on their side and seven others were injured.

“We have repulsed them,” he said.

Residents in the area said Galkayo was calm on Sunday but soldiers from both factions were seen reorganizing themselves for more clashes.

Earlier this month, the United Nations said the conflict could worsen and clashes had already displaced around 50,000 people.

Somalia has been at civil war for 25 years and clashes between the clan-based militias who control much of the country are common. In the south, forces loyal to the weak U.N.-backed government are also battling Islamist insurgents.

(Writing by Aaron Maasho Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

Somalia – 26 Asian sailors released by priates after four years

Al Jazeera 

Twenty-six Asian sailors, held captive in a small fishing village since 2012, were released on Saturday.

The sailors were held in Dabagala, northeast of the capital Mogadishu [Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP]

Somali pirates have freed 26 Asian sailors held captive in a small fishing village for more than four years, an official and a maritime expert said on Saturday.

The sailors – from China, the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Taiwan – were seized when the Omani-flagged FV Naham 3 was hijacked close to the Seychelles in March 2012.

Their period of captivity is one of the longest among hostages seized by pirates in the Horn of Africa nation.

“We are very pleased to announce the release of the Naham 3 crew early this morning,” said John Steed, East Africa region manager for the Oceans Beyond Piracy group.

“The crew is staying overnight in Galkayo. They will arrive in Nairobi at 18.30 local time tomorrow.”

He said they were in the hands of authorities in Galmudug, in central Somalia, and would be repatriated on a UN humanitarian flight before being sent back to their home countries.

Mayor Hirsi Yusuf Barre told Reuters news agency the “crew did not say if ransom was paid”.

Steed said one member of the crew had died during the hijacking while two succumbed to illness. Among those released, one was being treated for a gunshot wound to the foot and three were diabetic.

The sailors were held in Dabagala near the town of Harardheere, about 400km northeast of the capital Mogadishu.

Harardheere became known as Somalia’s main pirate base at the height of the crisis.

The Oceans Beyond Piracy group said the crew were brought ashore by pirates when their ship sank more than a year after its hijacking.

Piracy off Somalia’s coast has subsided in the past three years, mainly due to shipping firms hiring private security details and the presence of international warships.

The wave of attacks had cost the world’s shipping industry billions of dollars as pirates paralysed shipping lanes, kidnapped hundreds of seafarers and seized vessels more than 2,000km from Somalia’s coastline.

Source: Agencies

Somalia Abductions Africa

The Mayor of Mogadishu and reporting Africa

The Conversation

The Mayor of Mogadishu: what you get when African cliché is dropped

September 28, 2016 6.17pm SAST

Mohamed Noor (left) and Huda Omar pose for a photograph during their wedding ceremony in Mogadishu, a picture at odds with the city’s reputation.Reuters/Feisal Omar

News reporting is always shaped by a considerable amount of tension. How do you strike the balance between hooking the audience with the sensational while supplying sufficient detail and context for an informed understanding of the events being reported?

This tension is most apparent when dealing with complex issues set in environments geographically distant from your audience. Reporting Africa to the world has been shaped by this tension. It has also been shaped by frames that can replicate colonial prejudices, Cold War stereotypes or project images of “otherness”.

This is captured in Africa’s Media Image in the 21st Century: From Heart of Darkness to Africa Rising, a new volume by Mel Bunce, Suzanne Franks and Chris Paterson.

In their fascinating and informative new study of Africa’s media image, the trio relate how journalists have to fight to get stories from Nigeria and other key states into the news as areas worthy of reporting in their own right and not just when there was “trouble” there.

They quote the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who says that if …

all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner.

Somalia is Black Hawk Down

If there is one country that could sum up this, it is Somalia. Decades of war, civil dislocation, poverty, hunger and disease have been the stock-in-trade of Western reporting. Given the country’s history this is not altogether surprising. It has been almost constantly at war since the uprisings in the late 1980s that overthrew the dictator Siad Barre.

The dictator’s departure led to the fragmentation of a highly centralised system of government, the growth of clan-based militias and the rise of Islamist movements. This in turn drew the hostility of neighbours and the US.

For many in the West reliant on sporadic but sensationalist media coverage, Somalia is Black Hawk Down. Added to that is a dash of piracy, stick-thin children starved by rapacious warlords and saved only by Western aid or intervention. Until, of course, that intervention went horribly wrong.

Harding’s grasp for the detail

There are elements of these themes but, fortunately, a lot more to be found in the intriguing new work, The Mayor of Mogadishu by Andrew Harding. There is detail, nuance, context and first-hand experience in this account by the well-travelled BBC foreign correspondent.

At times, it reads like a series of dispatches. While this may make it a little disjointed, it imbues the story with the sense of being there and knowing what is important to report or describe.

Harding is very well aware of the danger of stereotypes. He warns at the start that the name Mogadishu seems “forbidding” and has in the media

become a bloated cliché, not just of war but of famine and piracy, terrorism, warlords, anarchy, exodus … All the worst headlines of our time invoked by one lilting, gently poetic, four-syllable word.

Harding peoples the city and brings it alive as a place where lives are lived, ambitions followed, family dramas played out and stories told. As he points out, some stories are exaggerated for effect or to inflate the egos of the tellers or flatter their subjects. The central character is Mohamud “Tarzan” Nur – the Mayor of Mogadishu.

There are many and often conflicting stories of a man whose image to fellow Somalis is equally complex. He is hated or despised by some, loved and admired by others. Among his stories is the one about escaping a school dormitory to hang from the branches of a tree, earning himself the nickname Tarzan.

Mohamud Nur is a man of passion, of drive, of ruthlessness. His language is colourful and, in a passage where Harding comes perilously close to Somali stereotyping, can sound “like a gunfight in a sandstorm”.

Siad Barre gets off lightly

The author is surprisingly forgiving of the Somali dictator Siad Barre. He says that history has not been kind to him. Should it have been? A man who overthrew an elected government and switched sides in the Cold War to maximise his accumulation of weaponry. These weapons were used to pursue violent irredentist campaigns and to suppress brutally any vestige of opposition. On the pretext of ending clan conflict, this man used force and coercion against clans and their leaders. All these while single-mindedly pursuing advantage for his own Marehan clan, which is part of the wider Darod clan system.

The Marehan dominance eventually, as Harding does go on to describe, led to revolt and a high degree of polarisation back into clans by the majority that were excluded from power and influence.

Later in the book, clear analysis and context are more assured with the description of the US’s “coldly logical” but totally misinformed conclusions about the situation in Somalia. This led to US funding for warlords out of a 9/11 generated fear of the Somali Islamic Courts Union, which was succeeding in ending conflict and bringing stability to Mogadishu.

Washington encouraged Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia and destruction of the Islamic Courts Union. This led to its militia, the Al Shabaab, becoming the dominant and destructive Islamist force it remains today.

The contemporary part of the story and continuing vicissitudes are again viewed through the eyes of Nur, his wife and friends. This gives a personal and very human touch to the whole narrative while not losing sight of complex national and international dimensions.

This ability to both tell stories with impact and grasp the impact of a multiplicity of factors emerges from the Bunce, Franks and Paterson volume as the key factor in getting the media to portray more accurate, informed and less stereotypical accounts of events in African states.

Kenya-Somalia – Kenyatta in Mogadishu for IGAD summit

Daily Nation

 

President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives in Somalia for the 28th Igad Extra-Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government on September 13, 2016.

TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 13 2016

President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives in Somalia for the 28th Igad Extra-Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government on September 13, 2016. PHOTO | PSCU
The summit is also attended by Uganda President Yoweri Museveni and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia are among the countries with troops in Somalia.

President Uhuru Kenyatta today flew into the Somali capital Mogadishu to attend a special Igad summit.

President Kenyatta arrived at Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu and was received by his host President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud.

This is the first visit to Somalia by a Kenyan Head of State in three decades.

President Kenyatta and President Mohamoud later held brief bilateral talks at a hotel near the airport ahead of the special Igad summit.

The summit, also attended by Uganda President Yoweri Museveni and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, will discuss the progress Somalia has made towards entrenching security and stability.

Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia are among the countries with troops in Somalia.