Tag Archives: Somalia

Somalia – growing threat of famine as drought hits

Reuters

By Katy Migiro

NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Somalia risks slipping back into famine, the United Nations, said on Tuesday, as worsening drought has left millions without food, water or healthcare in a country crippled by decades of war.

Five million Somalis, or more than four out of 10 people, do not have enough to eat because of poor rains and fighting between the Islamist militant group al Shabaab and Somalia’s African Union-backed government.

Famine last struck pockets of Somalia in 2011, killing 260,000 people. It was caused by drought, conflict and a ban on food aid in territory held by al Shabaab.

“The humanitarian situation remains grim for millions of Somalis,” the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Peter de Clercq, said in a statement.

“We are faced with a slight but steady increase in the number of people in need, and most recently with a significant risk of further deterioration to famine.”

Both of Somalia’s 2016 rainy seasons were below average and the April to June 2017 Gu rains are predicted to be poor, the U.S.-based Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) said.

“Urgent action to ramp up assistance provision and ensure adequate humanitarian access is needed to address rising levels of food insecurity and mitigate the potential for large-scale loss of life,” it said.

In the south, the regions of Bay and Bakool are the most worrying, as poor households have had little to no harvest, own few livestock and rely on wage labour, which declines quickly during severe droughts, it said.

Hunger is particularly acute among Somalia’s 1.1 million internally displaced people, who are extremely poor after being forced by conflict and drought to flee multiple times.

Some 320,000 children under the five are acutely malnourished with 50,000 of these severely malnourished, meaning they risk dying without emergency intervention.

“Immediate support is required to prevent a significant deterioration of the humanitarian situation,” de Clercq said, appealing for $864 million to provide emergency aid to 3.9 million people.

“Early action is the only way to demonstrate that we have learnt the lessons from the past to avert another catastrophe.”

(Reporting by Katy Migiro @katymigiro; Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

Somalia – suicide bombers hit AMISOM HQ; 3 dead

Reuters

Ugandan soldiers serving in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) walk at the scene of an explosion after a suicide attack at a checkpoint outside the main base of an African Union peacekeeping force in the Somali capital Mogadishu, January 2, 2017. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
right

Suicide bombers attacked the main peacekeeping base in Somalia’s capital on Monday, killing at least three Somali security officers, police said.

Islamist al Shabaab militants, who want to topple the Western-backed government, said they carried out the assault near Mogadishu’s main airport, an area used by several embassies, aid groups and telecoms companies.

One bomber drove a car into a checkpoint outside the headquarters of the African Union peacekeeping force AMISOM, killing three Somali officers stationed there, police officer Mohamed Ahmed said.

Another vehicle then drove through towards the base’s main gates but came under fire from peacekeepers.

“It exploded about 200 metres from the gate. Civilian buildings were damaged,” AMISOM said on its Twitter feed.

The powerful blasts damaged the front of the nearby Hotel Peace, though there were no immediate reports of casualties there. The burned-out shell of one of the wrecked vehicles lay outside.

Al Shabaab’s military spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab said the fighters had intended to attack the hotel, as African leaders seeking a solution to Somalia’s decades-long turmoil had met there last year.

Nearly 300 members of Somalia’s federal parliament were sworn in last week after elections and are expected to pick a new president.

(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Somali – bomb kills five soldiers in Mogadishu

Reuters

Thu Dec 15, 2016 3:20pm GMT
A military boot is seen at the scene of a suicide car bomb attack by al Shabaab in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, Somalia, September 18, 2016. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
 

By Abdirahman Hussein and Abdi Sheikh

MOGADISHU (Reuters) – A bomb blast killed five soldiers and injured a dozen other people in the Somali capital on Thursday, a municipal spokesman said, hours after a car bombing at a checkpoint.

A spokesman for Islamist al Shabaab militants claimed the attack on the soldiers. He did not comment on the first attack.

“We targeted the so-called government soldiers,” spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab said.

Al Shabaab has been trying to disrupt Somalia’s protracted parliamentary elections – part of efforts to rebuild the fractured nation after decades of war. The three-month vote is due to end on Dec. 29.

Abdifatah Omar Halane, spokesman for Mogadishu municipality said a bomb planted under a tree outside a tea shop had killed at least five soldiers and wounded a dozen other people, including civilians.

“We heard a huge blast and soon we saw people lying under the tree, some dead, others yelling for help,” shopkeeper Nur Abdullahi said. “Among the injured ones were two young children.”

Earlier in the day, a car bomb exploded at a checkpoint near the national theatre in Mogadishu, about 500 metres (yards) from the presidential palace, killing the bomber, police in the coastal capital said. There was no immediate word on whether anybody else was killed or injured.

Witnesses said the explosion was followed by gunfire.

“The bomber blew up the car after police ordered him to stop at gunpoint. We are investigating,” Abdikadir Hussein, a police officer, told Reuters.

Al Shabaab, which is affiliated with al Qaeda, aims to drive out African Union peacekeepers, topple Somalia’s Western-backed government and impose its strict version of Islam on the Horn of Africa state.

The militants once held large swathes of Somalia including Mogadishu before being ousted from the capital in 2011 and losing further ground, though they continue to pose a formidable threat with bombings in Somalia and neighbouring Kenya.

(Additional reporting by Feisal Omar; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Catherine Evans)

 

Somalia – many killed in Mogadishu port suicide bombing

BBC

A suicide car bomber has killed at least 16 people in the Somali capital Mogadishu, officials say.

Dozens of others were injured in the explosion early on Sunday.

The bomber struck at the entrance of the city’s main port facilities. Residents say the blast could be heard across Mogadishu.

No group has said it carried out the attack, but the Somali Islamist group al-Shabab often carries out such bombings in the capital.

“We assisted 48 wounded people and carried 16 others who were killed in the blast,” said Abdikadir Abdirahman Adem, head Mogadishu’s Amin ambulance service.

The death toll is expected to rise further.

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