Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Islamist factions on brink of war in Somali port

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

MOGADISHU (AFP) - The Islamist alliance that has ruled the key southern Somali port of Kismayo for a year was on the brink of collapse Wednesday, with two factions vowing to fight for supremacy.

The Al-Qaeda-inspired Shebab and the more political Hezb al-Islam group both claim control of Kismayo, whose port is a key source of revenue, since seizing the town from the transitional government troops in August 2008.

Hundreds of heavily armed fighters allied to Hezb al-Islam have this week deployed near Kismayo, located some 500 kilometres (300 miles) south of the capital Mogadishu.

"There is no longer a single group controlling Kismayo but we are planning to announce one soon," Sheikh Ahmed Madobe, the head of the armed group, told reporters Wednesday.

Regional Shebab spokesman Sheikh Hassan Yaqub Ali said their efforts to persuade their rivals that Kismayo belonged to both of them had fallen on deaf ears.

"We can no longer tolerate them. We are always in a position to defend our religion from anyone who tries to undermine it," Ali said.

After capturing Kismayo last year, the two sides agreed to share power, each governing for six months alternatively, but the deal foundered with Shebab's refusal to honour it.

Witnesses reported Wednesday that residents had begun fleeing the port town as the former allies moved closer to armed confrontation.

Local resident Mohamed Moalim Ibrahim said the fighters had taken positions "in trenches, some of them are on top of a tall building where they installed their heavy machine guns... Many residents have fled to nearby villages."

Senior Shebab official Osmail Haji Adow regretted that "brothers who were once allied to fight against the enemy of Allah are sharpening their swords today to wage war on each other."

"We call on both sides to show restraint," he said.

One resident who spoke to AFP by phone said an eruption of violence looked inevitable.

"This seems to be all about financial interests because the Shebab refused to share the resources with their allies," said Abdullahi Hassan. "We are only waiting for the start of the fighting. There is no hope of peace."

Kismayo has been relatively calm since the hardline Islamists seized it and many residents from war-riven Mogadishu have sought refuge there.

On May 7, the Shebab and Hezb al-Islam launched a blistering offensive against the internationally-backed administration of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in Mogadishu as well as southern and central regions.

The hardline groups have reduced the government's reach to just a few streets in the war-wracked capital, where it owes its survival to the African Union peacekeepers.

But the tensions in Kismayo may wreck their drive against Sharif's government and the African forces whom they have repeatedly attacked, accusing them of being an occupying force.

Source: AFP, Sept 30, 2009

Monday, 28 September 2009

OLF Rebels Stress Common Cause in Internal Power Struggle

Some Oromos in the Diaspora have stopped supporting the Eritrea-funded OLF leadership since it split into two major groups and being pressured to abandon its core ideology of self-determination.
During his long May interview, Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki also angered many Oromo supporters of OLF's self-determination ideology (enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations) when Isaias declared self-determination and Oromo self-rule as a mere transitional doctrine that must be replaced.
The General Hailu Gonfa group and Dr. Beyene Assoba group say the OLF will be united against the government.
(VOICE OF AMERICA) Leaders of two factions of the Oromo Liberation Front declare that in spite of a split in the rebel movement leadership, both sides seek the political unity of Oromo people.
Although engaged in a dispute over leadership and tactics of the OLF, General Hailu Gonffa and Dr. Beyene Assoba say they have no ideological differences. While both factions operate as OLF rebels, one group is led by Dawd Ibssa and the other is led by General Kemal Gelchu, who left the Ethiopian military and took an estimated 600 troops with him to Eritrea.
The two leaders operate from separate offices in neighboring Eritrea's capital, Asmara. Both sides told Democracy program broadcaster Tizita Belachew they are committed to armed struggle because, as Hailu said, "the Ethiopian government does not believe in peaceful negotiation." The interviews will be broadcast on the Amharic service at 9 p.m. Saturday.
Following the recent broadcast in Nairobi of a television documentary about the military forces of a faction led by General Hailu Gonffa, "Inside Rebel Territory," Ethiopian government officials charged that the filming of the combatants was staged. Beyene more recently thanked Nation Media for daring to air the four-part television program on the forces of the other OLF faction in spite of diplomatic efforts by the Ethiopian government to prevent the show from airing. A spokesman for Hailu said the film was an accurate and truthful representation.
The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) Considers Them Prisoners of Conscience

Seventy three Oromo nationals, ages ranging between the youngest of 18 and the oldest of 80 years, have recently been taken to court with another list of the usual political charges, which included alleged conspiring along with OLF (the Oromo Liberation Front) – an armed opposition political organization working to remove the government from power. The details of this newest bundle of charges include, among others, allegedly conspiracy to overthrow the government by collaborating with the OLF fighters by guiding them and providing them with information as well as weapons and ammunition, and fighting alongside the OLF fighters and inflicting casualties, including death on members of the defense forces.

The accused, most of whom are from the Eastern Oromia region of Hararge, include both males and females of varying ages, marital status and careers. According to documents obtained by HRLHA from its informants in Ethiopia, most of those suspects have already spent up to five years in prison, although this is the first time to be taken to court. Given the inefficient and highly politicized legal system of Ethiopia, the trial (which is usually a mockery) of such large number of political suspects would take years before reaching a verdict. Past experiences considered, HRLHA believes that this is a deliberate and systematic way of punishing and intimidating suspected political prisoners by exposing them to extended and harsh prison situations.

The ruling EPRDF party in Ethiopia, by abusing the global agenda of the war on terror, has been silencing and, in some cases, eliminating what it labels as its political opponents by accusing them of allegedly committing terrorist acts, simply because they attempted to exercise their democratic rights, which are granted by the Constitution and other related international covenants that the country has ratified.

Since the EPRDF Government came to power (1991) many innocent civilians from all walks of life and different ethnic backgrounds, age groups, religions and genders have become victims of this suppressive political system. Although the victims have been multiple and various, the pretexts and the allegations have always been one and the same – to be suspected of being either a member or a supporter of this or that opposition political organizations.

The list of the accused is obtained by HRLHA reporters in Ethiopia from the charge compiled by the Dirre Dhawa office of the Prosecutor General of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and presented to the Federal High Court against the political suspects in March 2009.

All defendants, after their first appearance in court, were taken back to the Shinilie detention center in Dirre Dhawa administrative region, where they are believed to have been held ever since they were arrested. The informants of HRLHA have learnt that some of the inmates died prior to the court appearance of this group mainly due to very poor prison situations including lack of medical care, food and sanitation. According to HRLHA reporters, the prisoners get only two glasses of water and three slices of local bread per day, which is insufficient both quantitatively and nutritionally.

HRLHA has also learnt that most of those prisoners were kept in confinements for the past five years without court appearance. The HRLHA considers all defendants to be prisoners of conscience; as they have been arrested, imprisoned and charged for attempting to exercise their democratic political rights and their freedom of thought based on their ethnic identity. HRLHA expresses its deepest concern for the safety of those prisoners.

Since the TPLF/EPRDF Government took full control of power in 1992, countless batches of Oromos and other ethnic groups have ended up in prisons and faced countless bundles of political charges, which are usually replicas of each other. In a country like Ethiopia, with the poorest economy and more of patriarchal societies, HRLHA is highly concerned about the negative impacts of such endless, unfounded and indiscriminate political actions on the already devastated socio-economic situation in the country; for such political actions usually target the relatively educated, skilled, experienced and relatively productive segments of the society, and individuals who are in most cases heads of families.

HRLHA calls on the authorities of Ethiopia to either give swift and fair trial to those seventy three suspected persons or release them from prison.

HRLHA calls on governments of the West, regional and international diplomatic communities and human rights agencies to join hands and try to pressurize the Ethiopian Government so that it refrains from politically intimidating its own peoples, and instead engages itself in constructive activities that could help reverse the ever worsening socio-economic situation of the country.

HRLHA is a non-political organization which attempts to challenge abuses of human rights of the people of various nations and nationalities in the Horn of Africa. It is aimed at defending fundamental human rights including freedoms of thought, expression, movement and association. It is also aimed at raising the awareness of individuals about their own basic human rights and that of others. It has intended to work on the observances as well as due processes of law. It promotes the growth and development of free and vigorous civil societies.


In Contempt of… the Truth!

September 28th, 2009 |

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

In Contempt …

Commenting recently on an International Crisis Group (ICG) study dealing with rising ethnic tensions and dissent in advance of the “May 2010” elections, Ethiopia’s arch dictator wisecracked, “This happens as some people have too many billions of dollars to spend and they feel that dictating how, particularly, the developing countries manage their affairs is their God given right and to use their God given money to that purpose. They are entitled to their opinion as we are entitled to ours.”

The dictator’s opinion of the ICG and its findings was predictably boorish: “The analysis (ICG report) is not worth the price of or the cost of writing it up,” he harangued. “We have only contempt for the ICG. You do not respond to something you only have contempt for.” The dictator boasted that his “ethnic federalism” policy had saved the “country [which] was on the brink of total disintegration.” He marshaled anonymous authorities to support his fabricated claim that he is the redeemer of the nation: “Every analyst worth his salt was suggesting that Ethiopia will go the way of Yugoslavia or the Soviet Union. What we have now is a going-concern."

Daniela Kroslak, ICG’s Deputy Director of the Africa Program, denied the dictator’s wild and bizarre denunciations. At any rate, the dictator’s criticism was a “tale full of sound and fury signifying nothing,” as Shakespeare might have said. He had not read the report! Why? Because it “was not worthy of [his] time.” The dictator unabashedly criticizes a report he had not even read– a textbook case of argumentum ad ignorantiam (argument to ignorance). In other words, because the report is “not worth the cost of the paper it is written on”, it is not “worthy” of being read; therefore, it is false and contemptible.) Trashing a report completed by a respected international think-tank (ICG provides regular advice to governments, and intergovernmental bodies like the United Nations, the European Union and the World Bank) and heaping contempt on its authors is a poor substitute for a rigorous, reasoned and factually-supported refutation of the report’s findings, analysis and arguments.

Truth be told, contempt is the emotional currency of the dictator. ICG just happens to be the latest object of the dictator’s wrathful contempt. The dictator’s record over the past two decades shows that he has total contempt for truth, the Ethiopian people, the rule of law, human rights, the free press, an independent judiciary, dissenters, opposition leaders and parties, popular sovereignty, the ballot box, clean elections, international human rights organizations, international law, international public opinion, Western donors who demand accountability, and even his own supporters who disagree with him and his flunkeys…

The Evidence: Does the ICG and Its Report Deserve Contempt or Credit?

The ICG report is balanced, judicious, honest and meticulously documented. Entitled, “Ethiopia: Ethnic Federalism and Its Discontents” (29 pages without appendix, and an astonishing 315 scholarly and other original source references for such a short report), the report “applauds” the dictator’s constitution for its “commitment to liberal democracy and respect for political freedoms and human rights.” It credits the dictatorship for “stimulating economic growth and expanding public services”. The study even approvingly notes the “proliferation of political parties” under the dictatorship’s watch.

The report is not a whitewash. It also points out failures. The most glaring failure is the radical political “restructuring” engendered by “ethnic federalism” to “redefine citizenship, politics and identity on ethnic grounds.” The study suggests that the “intent [of “ethnic federalism”] was to create a more prosperous, just and representative state for all its people.” However, the result has been the development of “an asymmetrical federation that combines populous regional states like Oromiya and Amhara in the central highlands with sparsely populated and underdeveloped ones like Gambella and Somali.” Moreover, “ethnic federalism” has created “weak regional states”, “empowered some groups” and failed to resolve the “national question”. Aggravating the underlying situation has been the dictatorship’s failure to promote “dialogue and reconciliation” among groups in Ethiopian society, further fueling “growing discontent with the EPRDF’s ethnically defined state and rigid grip on power and fears of continued inter-ethnic conflict.”

The ICG report implicitly criticizes the opposition as well. It notes that they are “divided and disorganized” and unable to publicly show that they could overcome “EPDRF’s” claim that they are not “qualified to take power via the ballot box.” As a result, the 2010 elections “most probably will be much more contentious, as numerous opposition parties are preparing to challenge the EPRDF, which is likely to continue to use its political machine to retain its position.” The study also addresses the role of the international community, which it claims “has ignored or downplayed all these problems.” The donor community is specifically criticized for lacking objective and balanced perspective as they “appear to consider food security more important than democracy in Ethiopia, but they neglect the increased ethnic awareness and tensions created by the regionalisation policy and their potentially explosive consequences.” The report does not even spare the defunct Derg regime, which historically was responsible for “repression, failed economic policy and forced resettlement and ‘villagisation’.”

Of course, none of the foregoing is known to those who are willfully ignorant of the report, but have chosen to preoccupy their minds with hubris, hypocrisy, arrogance and contempt for the truth.

Opinion versus Facts

The dictator said, “They (ICG) are entitled to their opinion as we are entitled to ours.” That is true. But as the common saying goes, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.” The facts on the dictatorship and “ethnic federalism” are infamous and incontrovertible. It is not a matter of opinion, but hard fact, that after the 2005 elections the dictator unleashed security forces under his personal control to undertake a massive “crackdown on the opposition [that] demonstrated the extent to which the regime is willing to ignore popular protest and foreign criticism to hold on to power.” It is a proven fact by the dictator’s own Inquiry Commission, not opinion, that his “security forces killed almost 200 civilians (the real number is many times that) and arrested an estimated 30,000 opposition supporters”. It is a plain fact that “there is growing discontent with the EPRDF’s ethnically defined state and rigid grip on power and fears of continued inter-ethnic conflict.” It is an undeniable fact that the dictatorship has caused “continuous polarisation of national politics that has sharpened tensions between and within parties and ethnic groups since the mid-1990s. The EPRDF’s ethnic federalism has not dampened conflict, but rather increased competition among groups that vie over land and natural resources, as well as administrative boundaries and government budgets.” It is a fact just as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow that “Without genuine multi-party democracy, the tensions and pressures in Ethiopia’s polities will only grow, greatly increasing the possibility of a violent eruption that would destabilise the country and region.”

It is true the dictator is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts!

The Art of Distraction

What could possibly be “contemptible” about the ICG report? The obvious way to counter a report by a respected international think-tank is by presenting countervailing evidence that undermines confidence in the report’s findings and conclusions. But the dictator opts for something proverbially attributed to the legal profession: “When the law is against you, argue the facts. When the facts are against you, argue the law. When both are against you, pound the table and attack and abuse the plaintiff.” In this case, when you can’t handle the facts and the truth, throw a fit, make a scene, vilify the ICG, demonize the individual authors, demean the report with cheap shots and declare moral victory with irrational outbursts.

But why throw a temper tantrum?

The fact of the matter is that “ethnic federalism” is indefensible in theory or practice. The ICG report hit a raw nerve by exposing the fundamental flaws in the dictatorship’s phony “ethnic federalism” ideology. The report makes it crystal clear that the scheme of “ethnic federalism” is unlikely to keep the nine ethnic-based states in orbit around the dictatorship much longer. The ICG’s reasonable fear is that over time irrepressible centripetal political contradictions deep within Ethiopian society could potentially trigger an implosion of the Ethiopian nation. This argument is logical, factually-supported and convincing. As we have previously suggested, “ethnic federalism” is a glorified nomenclature for apartheid-style Bantustans . By unloading verbal abuse and sarcasm on the ICG, the dictator is trying to divert attention from the central finding of the report: Ethnic federalism is highly likely to lead to the disintegration of the Ethiopian nation. That is what the dictator’s sound and fury is all about!

What Makes for a Strong Federalism?

We believe the ICG report does not go far enough in explicitly suggesting a way out of the “ethnic federalism” morass. It seems implicit in the report that if “ethnic federalism” is dissolved as a result of forceful action by the “states”, the country’s national disintegration could be accelerated. If the dictatorship fails to reform or modify it significantly, ethnic tensions will continue to escalate resulting in an inevitable upheaval. If the dictatorship escalates its use of force to keep itself in power, it could pave the way for the ultimate and inevitable collapse of the country into civil strife. All of these scenarios place the Ethiopian people on the horns of a dilemma.

We believe there are important elements from the Ghanaian Constitution that could be incorporated to produce a strong and functioning federal system in Ethiopia. As we have argued before , Ghana’s 1992 Constitution provides a powerful antidote to the poison of ethnic and tribal politics: “Every political party shall have a national character, and membership shall not be based on ethnic, religious, regional or other sectional divisions.” Membership in a political party is open to “every citizen of Ghana of voting age” and every citizen has the right to “disseminate information on political ideas, social and economic programmes of a national character.” Ghanaian citizens’ political and civic life is protected by the rule of law and an independent judiciary. Citizens freely express their opinions without fear of government retaliation; and the media vociferously criticizes government policies and officials without censorship. Ghana has a strong judiciary with extraordinary constitutional powers to the point of making the failure to obey or carry out the terms of a Supreme Court order a “high crime”. Ghana’s independent electoral commission is responsible for voter registration, demarcation of electoral boundaries, conduct and oversight of all public elections and referenda and electoral education. The Commission’s decisions are respected by all political parties. These are the essential elements missing from the bogus theory of “ethnic federalism” foisted upon the people of Ethiopia.

Ob la di, Ob la da…

It is truly pathetic that after nearly twenty years in power the best the dictators can offer the suffering Ethiopian people is an empty plate and a bellyful of contempt, acrimony and anger. Well, ob la di, ob la da, life goes on forever! So will the Ethiopian Nation, united and strong under the rule of law and the Grace of the Almighty. If South Africa can be delivered from the plague of the Bantustans, have no doubts whatsoever that Ethiopia will also be delivered from the plague of the Kililistans!

The writer, Alemayehu G. Mariam, is a professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and an attorney based in Los Angeles. For comments, he can be reached at
The recent killing in Somalia of a top US target shows that the Obama administration is fully committed to taking military action in support of the shaky Transitional Federal Government.

The September 14 helicopter attack that killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who had long been hunted by the US for his alleged role in terror attacks in Kenya, signalled to militant Islamist groups that “we have a long reach and a long memory,” US counterterrorism expert Jack Cloonan told the Associated Press.

Nabhan, linked to the 1998 East African embassy bombings and the 2002 suicide attack on the Paradise Hotel near Mombasa, ranked alongside fellow Kenyan Fazul Abdullah Mohammed as the US’ most wanted foreign fighters in Somalia.

The United States regards Fazul as the leader of Al Qaida’s East Africa cell.

He is also said to be a principal figure behind both the attacks with which Nabhan was associated.

The daytime raid that reportedly killed five other foreign fighters, in addition to Nabhan, leaves no doubt that the United States will try to kill Fazul whenever a suitable opportunity arises.

And Washington may feel growing urgency to act. Somali sources recently told The New York Times that Fazul is training a cell of suicide bombers in Mogadishu.

At the same time, the Obama administration appears determined to proceed cautiously in its military operations in Somalia.

“We’ve all learned how important it is to avoid civilian casualties,” a US official told Reuters following the helicopter strike which was carried out only after Nabhan had entered an unpopulated area.

The United States launched cruise missiles at targets in Somalia on at least five occasions during the Bush years, resulting in the deaths of dozens of Somali villagers.

That collateral damage enraged many Somalis, and thus benefited the Islamist forces seeking to overthrow the US-supported transitional government.

Somalis generally welcomed the most recent operation, according to an unnamed activist in Somalia quoted by Reuters.

“On the one hand, people are relieved. It happened in an isolated place with very little damage or killing of innocents,” he said. “And no one is crying about the loss of individuals who are not Somali.”

Kenya, however, was critical of the American operation.

Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula complained in an interview with Reuters last week that the US had carried out the mission “without information or cooperation or collaboration.”

“That lone ranger behaviour has often not succeeded in many places,” Mr Wetangula said.

The Al Shabaab insurgent force targeted in the US attack made good on a vow of retaliation.

The Islamist group killed 21 members of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (Amisom) in a September 17 suicide bombing in Mogadishu carried out with stolen United Nations vehicles.

In addition to taking direct military action against Shabaab, the Obama administration is increasing weapons shipments and financial support to the TFG, as well as training Somali forces at sites in Djibouti and, possibly, in Kenya, too.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Nairobi recently after holding talks with TFG head Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed that she and President Obama “want to expand and extend our support” for the Somalia government.

American officials subsequently indicated that this would involve a doubling of the 40 tonnes of weapons and ammunition that the United States has already supplied the TFG this year.
The US is also giving the TFG cash to buy weapons.

Recently, for example, $1.2 million was handed over to Somali leaders in “a brown paper bag,” according to an account published on the website of Washington-based Foreign Policy magazine.

The money had been flown to Mogadishu from Nairobi, the magazine said, citing letters sent to the United Nations Security Council by a top diplomat at the American UN mission in New York.

Alejandro Wolff, deputy permanent US representative to the United Nations, wrote the letter to request a Security Council exemption from the UN’s 17-year-long arms embargo on Somalia.

13 civilians killed as mortars hit Somali capital

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Mortars and missiles pounded parts of the Somali capital on Monday, killing at least 13 civilians in two separate battles between Islamic militiamen and the African Union peacekeeping force, witnesses and officials said.
In the first battle, heavily armed Islamist insurgents attacked a Burundian contingent of the AU force based at a former military academy in southwestern Mogadishu. Witnesses said eight civilians were killed.
Somali government spokesman Shiek Abdirisaq Qeylow confirmed the battle took place but did not give any other details. AU peacekeeping force spokesman Barigye Bahoku also confirmed the fighting.
Later Monday, residents reported missiles pounding Mogadishu's main market and said they were fired from an AU base nearby. Witnesses say they saw at least five civilians killed.
However, Bahoku said AU soldiers did not target the market in the city's south and instead were firing to protect a cargo ship docking at the port, which was being attacked by Islamic insurgents.
The African Union force, which is meant to protect key government installations such as the main air and sea ports, has become the main target of Islamic militias keen to overthrow the fragile U.N.-backed government. A loose alliance of Islamic groups opposed to the government control most of Mogadishu and other areas of southern Somalia.
Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991 when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other. The country has since descended into chaos and anarchy, and since last year has become a piracy haven.
Earlier on Monday, a firing squad of 10 al-Shabab men killed two Somalis in Mogadishu's main livestock market after the group accused them of being spies for foreign organizations.
Al-Shabab's Mogadishu chief Ali Mohamed Hussein says the group carried out the executions after determining that the two men worked for the AU force in Somalia and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
The group's members vow allegiance to al-Qaida and it has foreign fighters in its ranks, raising fears al-Qaida is seeking to make a base in Somalia. Al-Shabab has carried out several whippings, amputations and executions to enforce its own strict interpretation of Islam

Tension Mounting in Kismayo as Somali Islamists Jostle for Power

A power struggle between Islamist insurgent groups in Somalia's strategic southern port town of Kismayo is threatening to turn violent and tear the alliance apart. The rift between al-Shabab and Hisbul Islam Islamist groups has also been growing in other insurgent-controlled regions of Somalia.
Hundreds of people in Kismayo took to the streets Monday, demanding a peaceful end to a political dispute that began last week between two factions of Hisbul Islam and the local leaders of Somalia's al-Qaida-linked militant group, al-Shabab.

Residents say they fear violence could break out at any time, following threats by al-Shabab to retaliate against Hisbul Islam's decision to send hundreds of extra fighters and dozens of battle wagons into the city on Saturday. The arrival of the fighters forced al-Shabab to withdraw most of its guerrilla force out of Kismayo and re-locate them to another town north of the city.

The two Hisbul Islam factions, Ras Kamboni and Anole, and al-Shabab have been in an uneasy alliance in Kismayo since last August, when they jointly captured the city from a local factional leader. In addition to sharing security and administrating duties, the Islamist groups shared tax and other key revenue generated from Kismayo seaport and airport.

But on Wednesday, al-Shabab named its own local governing council for Kismayo that excluded members of the Ras Kamboni Brigade and Anole. Al-Shabab's announcement angered the powerful Islamist leader of the Ras Kamboni group and Hisbul Islam in the Lower Jubba region, Hassan Turki, who denounced the new al-Shabab administration and has refused to recognize it.

Al-Shabab has downplayed the possibility of an outbreak of violence between the groups, noting that they remain important allies in the insurgency to overthrow the U.N.-backed transitional federal government in Mogadishu.

Speaking to local reporters, al-Shabab's spokesman in Kismayo Hassan Yaqub said that the extra Hisbul Islam fighters had been sent to Kismayo not by Hassan Turki, but by a local Hisbul Islam commander named Ahmed "Madobe" Mohamed.

Yaqub says it was the military commander, who sent the fighters to take Kismayo without a clear order from the top. Yaqub says Mohamed's aim was to create insecurity and to sow discord among the Islamist allies.

There has been no comment from Hassan Turki or from the chairman of Hisbul Islam, Hassan Dahir Aweys, on the taking of Kismayo by Hisbul Islam forces.

Aweys is also the leader of the hard-line faction of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia or ARS. ARS, the Ras Kamboni Brigade, Anole, and the Islamic Front make up the four factions of Hisbul Islam that emerged as an insurgent group in February 2009.

Although Hisbul Islam and al-Shabab share the goal of toppling the government and forcing the withdrawal of 5,000 African Union peacekeeping troops from Somalia, they are believed to have sharply differing religious and political agendas. Recently, those differences have played a role in igniting power struggles in other parts of Somalia.

Last week in Somalia's Gedo region, local Hisbul Islam officials angered al-Shabab by unilaterally appointing a governor, a security chief, and a treasurer for the region. Hisbul Islam officials said the move was prompted by the defection of several Hisbul Islam officials in Gedo to al-Shabab.

Source: VOA, Sept 28, 2009

Somali militants execute 'spies'

Islamist groups often punish people in public - these men are being flogged
Islamist militants in Somalia have executed two people they accused of spying for foreign organisations.
Hundreds watched as a firing squad arranged by the al-Shabab group shot the pair in the capital, Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab officials said the men had been found guilty of working for the US CIA and African Union peacekeepers.
Analysts say the killings may have been in retaliation for a US raid earlier this month, in which an al-Qaeda suspect is said to have been killed.
The BBC's Mohammed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu says al-Shabab has carried out amputations and lashings in the past, but this is their first public execution in the city.
He says the death sentence was announced and the men were shot almost immediately by 10 masked men.
He says an al-Shabab official told reporters before the execution that the men had admitted spying - one for the AU, the other for the CIA.
Humanitarian crisis
The US regards al-Shabab as a proxy for al-Qaeda in Somalia, and says the group threatens to destabilise the region.
Two weeks ago, US forces launched an attack from helicopters in southern Somalia, reportedly killing Kenyan-born Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan who was wanted by the US for attacks in Kenya.
It was the first such US incursion into Somalia for years.

Days after the raid, suicide bombers attacked an AU base in Mogadishu and killed at least 16 people.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility, saying the attack was in revenge for the US raid.
Several radical Islamist groups are vying for control of the country - and hold power in much of central and southern Somalia, including parts of the capital city.
Al-Shabab is among the groups attempting to impose an extreme brand of Islamic law on the areas it controls.
The rebel fighters are battling troops loyal to the government - which controls little territory but is backed by the US, UN and peacekeepers from the AU.
The country has been wracked by conflict since 1991, when it last had an effective national government.
Some three million people - half the population - need food aid, while hundreds of thousands of people have fled the country.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Somalia: Al-Shabaab pulls out from strategic town

KISMAYO (Mareeg)—Al-Shabaab fighters have reportedly pulled out from Kismayo, a strategic port about 500 km south of Mogadishu after other fighters from Hizbul Islam group reached in the town, witnesses said on Sunday.

fighters armed with battle wagons led by Sheik Ahmed Madoobe former Kismayo governor under the Islamic Court Union reached in Kismayo and were deployed bases in the town.

Residents in Kismayo said al Shabaab leaders left the town and Hizbul Islam forces took over the control of their positions.

There has been dispute between al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam recently about the control of Kismayo. Sheik Hassan Turki the deputy leader of Hizbul Islam criticized al Shabaab after they have unilaterally formed an administration in the town.

Al Shabaab administrators including Sheik Hassan Ya’kub the spokesman of the administration left Kismayo and reached in Jamame town in the region.

There is no word from al Shabaab about the fall of Kismayo to the hands of Hizbul Islam fighters and also there is no comment from Hizbul Islam about the issue.

There is power struggle between the two rebel groups and they don’t have one agenda.

American Helped Bomb Somalia Base, Web Site Says

NAIROBI, Kenya — A Somali Web site is claiming that one of the suicide bombers who attacked an African Union base last week in Somalia was from the United States, which, if true, would make him the second known American to carry out a suicide attack.

According to, a mostly Somali-language Web site, the bomber lived in Washington State until 2007, when he left the United States to join the Shabab, a terrorist group with growing ties to Al Qaeda. Several suicide bombers penetrated an African Union base in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, Sept. 17, killing more than 15 peacekeepers, including the second in command of the 5,000-strong African Union mission in Somalia.

The bombers used United Nations trucks to slip into the base; they apparently had inside information because they struck precisely at a time when high-ranking Somali officials were meeting with African Union commanders to plan an offensive. Some witnesses said the bombers spoke English.

The Shabab took responsibility for the attack. But on Thursday, Shabab officials, when asked about the possible Somali-American connection, said they would not reveal the bombers’ identities.

“We’re not giving out any of that information,” said one Shabab official, who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak with journalists.

The Somali Web site listed a Seattle phone number for the bomber’s father, but the number is apparently not in service.

The Web site is known among Somalis as usually reliable. It focuses on news of interest to the Mursade subclan, which has contributed many fighters to the Shabab.

The Shabab are waging an intense guerrilla war against Somalia’s moderate Islamist transitional government and are trying to turn Somalia into a factory for global jihad. According to American and Somali officials, several high-ranking Qaeda agents are training Somali militants and recruiting terrorists from around the world to fight in Somalia.

According to F.B.I. officials, around 20 young Somali-American men have disappeared from the Somali community in Minneapolis over the past two years to join the Shabab.

One of them was Shirwa Ahmed, who blew himself up in northern Somalia last October, becoming the first known case of an American suicide bomber. The F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, has said that Mr. Ahmed was “radicalized in his hometown in Minnesota.”

Another Somali-American from Minnesota, Mohamed Hassan, 21, was killed during fighting in Mogadishu several weeks ago.

Ethiopia: Somalia looks like a lost cause By PETER JAMES SPIELMANN (AP) – 21 hours ago

UNITED NATIONS — Somalia is being hijacked by al-Qaida-linked terrorists who are better organized and more highly motivated than the ineffectual government in Mogadishu, and Sudan could be the next nation to fall under their influence, Ethiopia warned Saturday.

"It is time that we abandon the fiction that this is a war just among Somalis. It is not," Ethiopian Foreign Minister Ato Seyoum Mesfin said in a pessimistic speech before the General Assembly.

"Somalia is being hijacked by foreign fighters who have no inhibition in proclaiming that their agenda has nothing to do with Somalia. Theirs is an ambition that goes well beyond Somalia, and they say it out loud and clear," said Mesfin.

"Today in Somalia, there is greater coordination and cooperation among those who assist the extremists than among those who profess support for the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia," Mesfin said.

Last week, two stolen U.N. vehicles packed with explosives blew up at an African Union peacekeeping base in Somalia, killing 21 people, including 17 Burundian and Ugandan peacekeepers. Markings on the cars meant they were not subject to the usual security checks.

Al-Shabab, a local Islamic militia with foreign fighters in its ranks, said the Sept. 17 bombing was in retaliation for a U.S. commando raid on Sept. 14 that killed al-Qaida operative Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in southern Somalia. It has released a video pledging allegiance to al-Qaida and showing foreign trainers moving among its fighters.

"As the latest horrific suicide attack ... has shown, those destroying Somalia are being emboldened, and their supporters rewarded," Mesfin said.

On the other hand, "The international community is being stingy even with symbolic steps to show resolve against extremists and spoilers in Somalia," he said.

"It is critical that the international community wakes up before the hijacking of Somalia by extremism is fully consummated," Mesfin said, lamenting that "it appears, the Council does not consider Somalia is a priority."

"What is missing is the political will. No one who knows Somalia well believes that Al-Shabab is popular in Somalia. Whatever gains they have made is a function of their brutality and the support they have from without."

Mesfin warned Sudan could be the next domino.

"The Horn of Africa cannot afford the consequence of failure in the Sudan peace process. We are very close to both parties in the Sudan an asset which we want to use wisely," Mesfin said.

Does raid in Somalia to take out a much-wanted al-Qaida operative show new side of AFRICOM?By John Vandiver

STUTTGART, Germany — It was an Africa operation unlike so many that came before.

When U.S. Special Forces troops boarded helicopters and swept into southern Somalia earlier this month in a daring daylight raid to take out a much-wanted al-Qaida operative, there were no missiles launched from distant ships or bombs dropped from overhead drones.

The question is whether that hands-on, high-risk Somalia mission is a harbinger of things to come for the new U.S. Africa Command, which until now has stressed cooperation, not commando raids, in its dealings with African nations.

The Sept. 14 operation — which the U.S. military has anonymously confirmed but provided few details about — ran counter to AFRICOM’s broadcast purpose to promote stability through military training partnerships intended to make armies across Africa more professional.

Yet such raids may reveal a hidden iron fist at the heart of the U.S. military mission in Africa, some analysts say -- especially in anarchic places like Somalia, where there is a total security vacuum and where the U.S. military has few alternatives when a high-valued target comes into view.

“I don’t think it’s a blip on the radar. I suspect there is more to come and that you’re going to see more of this in the future,” said Olivier Guitta, a counterterrorism expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, a think-tank focused on Islamic extremist terror groups. “You can do all the training you want. But it’s going to take them awhile to be ready.”

Added Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University: “It’s an operation of necessity, but not of preference. It’s not the first choice, but sometimes it’s the only choice.”

It has been one year since AFRICOM became the U.S. military’s sixth regional combatant command, and during that time commanders have pounded home the mission objectives. Repeated trips around the continent have focused almost exclusively on helping African militaries develop the capacity to provide for their own security.

News releases on the command’s Web site tout missions ranging from maritime security partnerships in the Gulf of Guinea to HIV prevention programs. There’s no mention of the Special Forces troops taking out Ali Saleh Nabhan, who was wanted in connection with the bombing of an Israeli hotel in 2002 and ever since had made Somalia his refuge.

At AFRICOM’s Stuttgart headquarters, the challenges surrounding Somalia have been at the forefront. On Wednesday, a group of experts and scholars visited to talk about the many complexities in the bloodied country, where a fragile transitional government is in a fight for its life against the local Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab.

Vicki Huddleston, the Defense Department’s newly appointed deputy assistant secretary for Africa, declined to confirm the military’s involvement in the recent commando operation.

“I don’t believe that the U.S. government has officially said they had anything to do with it,” she said.

However, Huddleston said she did not envision U.S. troops playing a direct role in helping to bring security to Somalia. Instead, the focus will continue to be on training.

“What we’re doing to help facilitate [stability] has been working with Uganda and other countries in the area to train the transitional federal government forces,” Huddleston said.

But the covert raid encapsulates some of the dilemmas AFRICOM faces. In a part of the world where suspicions about U.S. motives run deep, any direct military engagements could have the counterproductive effect of driving skeptical fence-sitters to the side of extremists.

“The thing is, you don’t want it to become public,” said Guitta. “Then you will have the whole other problem of having the people you’re trying to support being viewed as pawns. Then there’s a backlash.”

That’s the concern in Somalia. Some analysts say such actions could potentially be exploited by Islamic extremists looking to cast the weak transitional federal government as a puppet of Western powers.

Repercussions associated with such assaults are difficult to predict, according to EJ Hogendoorn, a Kenya-based expert on the Horn of Africa for the International Crisis Group.

However, surgical raids are less likely to provoke hostility than missile strikes, which carry higher risks for collateral damage. In the past, airstrikes were the preferred course of action, with the most recent occurring in 2008.

“From our perspective, they’re taking a certain amount of care to avoid civilians being attacked,” Hogendoorn said. “That suggests to me a bit more sensitivity.”

While AFRICOM officials declined to comment on the Somalia raid, officials recently have said that the command is not engaged in similar activities in other parts of Africa.

“U.S. Africa Command is not actively patrolling, searching for or pursuing al-Qaida or affiliated extremist groups in the Trans-Sahara region,” said AFRICOM spokesman Vincent Crawley in a statement.

“If U.S. personnel became aware of suspected extremist groups or individuals during a training exercise, any potential actions by U.S. personnel would be coordinated with the U.S. Embassy and the National Command Authority,” he said.

To date, Operation Enduring Freedom Trans-Sahara represents the quiet front of the war on terrorism. The mission — a military-to-military training partnership between the U.S. and 10 African countries — is centered on the soft-power programs AFRICOM prefers to emphasize.

But violence has begun to flare again in parts of northern Africa in recent months, and AFRICOM intends to add resources to counterterrorism efforts across northern Africa’s deserts. Among the recent attacks by suspected terror groups: an assault on Malian military forces on patrol last month; an American aid worker killed in Mauritania in June; and a British tourist killed in Mali in May.

“It’s a fertile breeding ground for terrorism. Not just for recruiting, but training as well,” said Lt. Col. James Woods, program manager for AFRICOM’s efforts in the region.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Are African Dictators Becoming Environmentalists?

September 22nd, 2009 | | 3 Comments

By Alemayehu Gebremariam

Recently, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi warned that the African delegation he is expected to lead to the climate change talks in Copenhagen in December would walk out of any “negotiations that threaten to be another rape of the continent.”

The Ethiopian dictator, who was speaking in Addis Ababa at a meeting arranged by United Nations Economic Commission for Africa to promote the African negotiating position, demanded that the West pay billions of dollars annually in exchange for Africa’s acquiescence to a global warming agreement. African Union Chairman Jean Ping took an even harder line, threatening to “never accept any global deal that does not limit global warming to the minimum unavoidable level, no matter what levels of compensation.”

It is unprecedented for African dictators to take the moral offensive against the “evil” Western imperialists, who for centuries have exploited Africa and ruptured its social fabric. In the climate change debate, Africa’s leaders – many with blood on their hands – profess to capture the moral high ground and name and shame the West for its abuse of Africa and the planet in general. The strategy is refreshingly Ghandian: Use moral outrage and international civil disobedience to make the West squirm into doing right by Africa. Ghandi taught “Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good.” He exhorted that the only way to get the British to abandon their evil ways in South Africa and India was to actively resist their colonial rule through civil disobedience, particularly through a campaign of non-cooperation. For Zenawi and company, that message translates into a very public act of non-cooperation with the Western overlords on issues of fair play, equity and environmental justice.

But are African leaders genuinely concerned about climate change, or are they motivated by the sheer potential for billions of dollars of annual compensation to line their pockets. Are they engaged in non-cooperation or political extortion?

The answer is obvious. The bluster about “walking out” and “delegitimizing” the Copenhagen talks is nothing more than a cynical appeal to lofty moral virtues in order to guilt-trip and shakedown Western countries into paying billions in “blood money.” That is certainly the conclusion of the Economist magazine, which in its recent issue stated that the wrath of African leaders is aimed at “making the rich world feel guilty about global warming. Meles has made it clear he is seeking blood money—or rather carbon money—that would be quite separate from other aid to the continent.”

In the end, all of the climate change pontification is about African dictators extorting a $67 billion bribe every year to enrich themselves. It has very little to do with remedying the ecological disasters facing Africa.

Consider the case of Ethiopia. While Meles has managed to convince other African leaders to make him the point man at the global warming negotiations, he has ignored the ecological apocalypse facing Ethiopia. Though he speaks with moral fervor and indignation about the negative role of the West in aggravating the environmental consequences of climate change on Africa, he has not made a single statement or offered a single policy initiative on environmental issues in Ethiopia.

The environmental facts on Ethiopia are incontrovertible. Ethiopia is facing ecological collapse caused by deforestation, soil erosion, over-grazing, over-population, desertification and loss of biodiversity and chemical pollution of its rivers and lakes. Even the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute – a government agency – admits that the country “loses up to 200,000 hectares of forest every year.” The Institute has warned that “if the trend continues the country would lose all of its forest resources by the year 2020.” Other studies have also shown that between 1990 and 2005, Ethiopia lost 14 percent of its forest cover and 3.6 percent of its forest and woodland habitat.

Just a few kilometers outside the capital, Lake Koka has attracted considerable international attention and become the iconic image of the country’s environmental decline. A community of 17,000 people is facing severe illnesses and high morbidity from drinking and using the lake’s water. Massive pollution caused by the sugar factories in the country have resulted in illness and deaths of tens of thousands of people. Nothing has been done to hold criminally or civilly accountable the parties responsible for the environmental crimes.

Africa’s knights in shining armor should take care of environmental disasters in their own backyards – lakes, rivers and factories – before mounting their steeds on a crusade to save Africa from global warming. As for Ethiopia’s arch dictator and Africa’s chief climate change negotiator, he is merely trying to rehabilitate his image from the continent’s foremost human rights abuser to its chief environmental redeemer. Before Africa can be rescued from the ill effects of climate change, it needs to save itself from predatory dictators like Zenawi. For Ethiopia and most of Africa the rallying cry should be, “Regime change before action on climate change.”

(Alemayehu G. Mariam is a professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino and an attorney based in Los Angeles. He can be reached at

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3 Responses to “Are African Dictators Becoming Environmentalists?”

1. adubent says:

THis is a well-documented and timely analysis. Well-said, "regime change before climate change". Meles and co., stop cheating!!

September 22nd, 2009 at 4:30 pm
2. Tola Chala says:

Professor Alex,

I am indigeneous Lake KOKA and my sorrows are deep about the damage Mr. Zenawi's people brought to Lake Koka and many other lakes, rivers, peaceful people of Ethiopia in General.

Dictators in general, Zenawi in particula do not care about the people the bully. Infact, from track records, of Mr. Zenawi, we learn a whole lot. Mr. Zenawi comes from regeon and people who have no forrests nor abundant vegetations, from Tigare. He and his people have no respect for the south that mentained rich savana red wood frrests, nor the people who kept the nature alive.

This brings us to the gun cultures, disrespectful cultures that overrun the rich southern of Ethiopia, have converted to total desert, in which even the rain have become luxury.

To zenawi, a full credited beggar, and killer, people of centeral and southern Ethiopia, huge victims. The prisons are full of people, who challanged the political, and environmental mad dog behaviors of these new commer killer army of Zenawi's home boys. Zenawi is fully accountable for environmental distructions, fully acknowledged desimal human rights records in Ethiopian history. People and nature are both the victims of Mr. Zenawi's track record.

Off all of these widespread crimes, against all outcries of despora communities across, here, goes Mr. Zenawi, the environmentalist, burgaining, to rob, the west who made his survival on power indefinite, with the money they pump into Adwa-mekelle economy, over the rest of our country.

Under Zenawi, education is non existant. qualified teachers are in prisons or exiled, puppets of the regime spend more time in political propoganda meetings, where, the graduates of its collges can not even speak more than yes, and no.

Ethiopia, became place of much uneducated, functionally illitrates roaming colleges, with phoney degrees and diplomas.

I met, some of those graduated from the Zenawi's universities, felt sad. Education under Zenawi's regime got ruined so bad that, the graduates are not better than the poor farmers.


I admire your relentless, efforts in exposing such absolute bruit regime in your writings. Keep up your great works.
Thanks a million, and as an Ethiopian who truely cares about my people, you've earned respects across political rifts.

Never stop, taking a good stub at this barberic regime, till they all held accountable for their criminal practices against nation and its natures.
God bless you.

September 22nd, 2009 at 5:49 pm
3. Anbabi says:

Prof – Well said and timely!!!

For Zenawi and his crew …

You know, If you do something long enough, you really get better at what you do… There seems to be no one who excelled or mastered the art of begging, like Zenawi and his crew.


September 22nd, 2009 at 11:05 pm

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Ethiopian News & Opinion Journal

Recent Posts

* Savage Egypt police shoot another Ethiopian refugee
* Ethiopia’s tribal junta stifles information technology growth
* Ethiopian book ignites scorn, outrage among Egyptologists
* Are African Dictators Becoming Environmentalists?
* Ethiopians in Ohio to confront Meles Zenawi in Pittsburgh
* What’s wrong with Ethiopia’s exchange
* Ethiopia rebels denounce “silence” on violation of rights
* Deja Vu: Much Ado About An Already Won Election!
* Kenenisa Bekele vs. Usain Bolt: Who wins?
* Ethiopian owned furniture business featured on Fox
* A Message from EPPF senior leader Shambel Zewde Ayalew
* World Bank gives $65 million more blood money to Ethiopia
* Video: Ethiopians in Washington DC honor 3 patriots
* New photo of Ethiopian Princess Kemeria and Count de Lesseps
* Human Rights Watch warns Britain about torture in Ethiopia
* Egypt defends its cold blood murder of Ethiopian migrants
* Ethiopia: Holyfield vs Retta rescheduled
* Ethiopia’s Fly Away Children
* Interview with Ethiopian freedom fighters: video
* WorldBank says Ethiopia’s atmosphere for business improved!

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Ethiopia's tribal junta stifles information technology growth

September 23rd, 2009 |

Ethiopia's regime continues to monopolize telecom services including fixed, mobile, Internet and data communications. This monopolistic control has stifled innovation and retarded expansion.

The government U.S. and WorldBank-financed tribal junta led by its genocidal leader Meles Zenawi, tries to encourage foreign investment in a broad range of industries by allowing foreigners up to 100% equity ownership. However, there is no official schedule for the privatisation of the national carrier and the introduction of competition, but once this happens, the potential to satisfy unmet demand in all service sectors is huge.

Ethiopia has the second lowest telephone penetration rate in Africa, but it recently surpassed Egypt to become the second most populous nation on the continent after Nigeria. [This is done on purpose by the U.S.-backed regime to keep the people of Ethiopian in the dark age]. However, it is also one of the poorest countries in the world with approximately 80% of the population supporting themselves through subsistence agriculture, which accounts for more than half of the country’s GDP.

Despite the monopoly situation, subscriber growth in the mobile sector has been excellent at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 90% since its inception in 1999 and more than 100% in the past six years. However, demand has been even stronger, and ETC has been unable to satisfy it. Ethiopia’s mobile market penetration is still one of the lowest in the world at little more than 3%. Fixed-line penetration is even lower, and this has also impacted on the development of the Internet sector. Prices of broadband connections are excessive.

Improvements are beginning to develop following massive investments into fixed-wireless and mobile network infrastructure, including third generation mobile technology, as well as a national fibre optic backbone. Ethiopia is investing an unusually large amount, around 10% of its GDP, into information & communication technology (ICT). However, telecommunications revenue has grown only moderately in comparison, at around 16% per annum. It has remained under 2% of GDP, a low figure in regional comparison.

Kenya criticises US Somali raid

Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula has criticised last week's raid by US forces in Somalia in which a suspected al-Qaeda member was reportedly killed.

Mr Wetangula told the Reuters news agency that he felt uncomfortable when the US conducted operations in the region without sharing information.

He said such "lone ranger behaviour" had frequently failed to achieve the stated goals.

Kenya is a US ally in the fight against East African Islamist militants.

Mr Wetangula also said that he welcomed any "success" in the raid.

US Special Forces flew into Somalia by helicopter, killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan and carried away his body, officials said.

Analysts say Nabhan was one of the most senior leaders of al-Qaeda's East Africa cell.

It is believed he fled to Somalia after the 2002 attacks and was working with the al-Shabab group, which the Americans see as al-Qaeda's proxy in Somalia.

Al-Shabab, which controls much of southern Somalia, later staged a suicide bombing on African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu, saying it was revenge for the US raid.

Nabhan was suspected of two attacks on the same day - bombing an Israeli-owned hotel in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa and trying to shoot down an Israeli airliner.

The authorities in Kenya also regard him as a suspect in two attacks on US embassies in the region in 1998.

Ethiopian rebels deny helping Somali Islamists

By Barry Malone

ADDIS ABABA, Sept 22 (Reuters) - An Ethiopian rebel group denied on Tuesday it is helping Islamist militants in neighbouring Somalia who are waging a violent rebellion against the country's U.N.-backed government.

Al Shaabab, the main rebel group that Washington says is al Qaeda's proxy in Somalia, on Sunday seized control of Yeed town on the border with Ethiopia from Somali government forces in fighting that killed at least 14 people.

A local governor said militiamen from the Ethiopian Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) helped al Shaabab drive out government forces in the attack.

But the ONLF denied the reports of cooperation.

"The Ogaden National Liberation Front has no relationship whatsoever with al Shaabab, which on several occasions has assassinated ONLF members," it said in a statement.

"ONLF does not interfere in the internal affairs of Somalia and in fact has so far supported the new transitional government, although aware of the deep involvement of Ethiopia with some warlords working with the current government."

Ethiopia entered Somalia in late 2006 to topple an Islamist movement in the capital Mogadishu. The intervention sparked an insurgency that is still raging despite the fact Ethiopian troops pulled out in January. ONLF said the report linking it with al Shaabab was a plot by Addis Ababa to discredit it.

Regional analysts say the ONLF and al Shaabab gunmen have clashed on the border several times in recent years.

Ethiopia denounces the ONLF -- which demands independence for the ethnic Somali eastern Ogaden region -- as a terrorist group supported by long-time archrival Eritrea.

Ethiopia and Somalia have a long history of hostilities over Ogaden and fought a war over the region in the 1907s.

Foreign oil and gas companies have long eyed the Ogaden which they believe may be rich in mineral deposits.

The rebels warned companies last week against exploring the region. In 2007, the ONLF attacked an oil exploration field owned by a subsidiary of Sinopec, China's biggest petrochemicals producer.

The separatist cause has been fuelled by the region's low level of development. Until Chinese engineers arrived in the remote region in 2007, the entire area had only 30 km (20 miles) of tarmac road. (Editing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura and Jon Hemming)

Ethiopia inks China deals to improve power network

DDIS ABABA — Ethiopia said on Wednesday its national electricity company has signed contracts with three Chinese firms to develop hydro-electric projects and made preliminary accords for wind power projects.

The state Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) said at least six new dams would built as be part of a 12 billion-dollar plan over 25 years to improve the power network.

The Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo) signed one accord with China Gezhouba Group Company (CGGC) for the Genale Dawa 3 hydropower project in the south of the country.

EEPCo chief executive Mihret Debebe said this would cost 408 million dollars and would generate 254 megawatts of power, ENA reported.

A 110 metre (330 feet) high dam will be built on the Genale River, which will increase the current capacity of 860MW by 27 percent, Mihret said.

EEPCo also signed an accord with Sinohydro Corporation for the 555 million- dollar Chemoga Yeda hydropower project in Amhara state. Mihret said there would be five dams on five rivers, with the first phase to be ready in four years.

Preliminary accords were signed with the HydroChina Company to build wind power projects in the Adama and Mesobo Harena areas. The financing will come from the Chinese government.

Ethiopia suffers major power shortfalls as it cannot keep up with rising demand from homes and industry. Since the start of this year, Addis Ababa regularly has power cuts every two da

Somalia's latest government 'best hope for stability'

There has been intense fighting between Islamist insurgents and Somalia government forces in western Somalia.

On Monday, local chiefs reported that at least 17 people, mainly combatants, were killed when fighters from al-Shabab, an Al Qaeda-inspired group that controls much of southern Somalia, attacked government forces in the town of Yet on the border with Ethiopia.

But Somalia's president Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, believes al-Shabab are losing support amongst the people.

According to Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times, who has recently spent time at the Somali president's villa, President Ahmed stands the best chance of any recent claimant on power to build a viable functioning government. Source BBC

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Somalia's Aweys calls for more attacks


Related Stories

* Somali Islamist rebels unite for battle

Radical Hizbu Islam leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys has called on his followers to launch more suicide attacks against their enemies.

Speaking during Eid prayer at Elasha Biyaha on the outskirts of Mogadishu today, Sheikh Aweys strongly condemned the killing of Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, the suspected al-Qaeda regional leader, by American commandos.

Sheikh Aweys termed the US operation that took place in Barawe District in southern Somalia on September 14, an unwarranted intervention by US forces.

The leader of Hizbu Islam acknowledged that Nabhan, the international jihadist from Kenya, and his colleagues, died in martyrdom.

“They were killed unlawfully,” remarked Sheikh Aweys, who indicated that the action will not end the struggle of the Islamists in Somalia.

“It is not the first time the Americans are intervening in Somalia, militarily,” said Sheikh Aweys. “They have been hostile to the Muslim people of this country.”

The sheikh recalled the American intervention in Somalia in early 1990s, pointing out that the Western media and public opinion reacted strongly whenever Westerners died or were harmed.

He indicated that the vice versa was the case when other people died in hordes.

Faction leader

Sheikh Aweys singled out an incident in October 1993 when 18 American marines and over 300 Somalis died in a confrontation between loyalist of a Somali faction leader and US Marines in Mogadishu.

“In the incident, only 18 Americans and over 300 Somalis died,, yet the world cried for the Americans and ignored the plight of the Somalis.”

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Inside the insular and secretive Eritrea By Barney Jopson

On the sun-bleached heights of the Asmara plateau, July is beles season, a few weeks of wild cactus fruit and ostentatious metropolitan chic. It is when the fig cacti, the beles, yield their knobbly pellets of fruit to sure-handed children, who pick them to earn their families some cash. July is also when Eritrea’s diaspora engine goes into reverse and expat families hustle through Asmara’s tiny airport and out on to the tiled streets of the capital, where they parade in the Gucci glamour and hip-hop bling of London and New York. Because their arrival coincides with the ripening of the cactus fruit – and because they have disappeared by the time the fruit is gone – they, too, are dubbed beles by the compatriots they leave behind.

The two cross paths on street corners in Asmara, where plastic buckets filled with the pickings from the cactus fields sit at the knees of female traders, swathed like mummies in the white cotton shawls of the Christian highlands. Some diaspora families sweep past, Dad speaking to the kids in Tigrinya, the local language, the kids replying in English or Swedish or Dutch. Others pause to buy handfuls of the fruit, whose yellow skin conceals a fleshy orange core that tastes of mango.

At 2,300m above sea level, this is one of Africa’s cleanest, calmest, most crime-free cities, a home above the clouds for 400,000 people and the capital of the continent’s newest nation-state. It’s a cauldron of cultural influences – domestic and foreign, old and new, beles and beles – but ranks as an outlier in Africa. It’s a sliver of rock that clings to the continental shelf like it’s afraid of slipping into the Red Sea, but its four million people refer to their neighbours as “Africans” with a cool detachment.

Eritrea’s admirers praise the dignity of its people, lean, elegant and proud. The critics lament the character of its geopolitics, belligerent, bossy and headstrong. Both are rooted in a powerful belief in Eritrean exceptionalism, the driving force behind a 30-year armed struggle for liberation from Ethiopian rule that finally ended in independence in 1993. It was a remarkable victory for a guerrilla army of Marxist fighters after the rest of the world had written off their cause as hopeless, or simply stopped caring. But in the years since, Eritrea has become a study in what happens when the heroes who win the war cannot recast themselves to live in peace.

. . .

Six o’clock on a Monday evening and the poky members’ room of the Casa degli Italiani was full. Half a dozen Eritrean men, all past their 60th birthdays, sat in corduroy blazers and leather jackets behind battered wooden school desks, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. The men grew up when Eritrea was an Italian colony, as it was latterly under Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime. Some even fought for Italy during the second world war. They spoke fluent Italian and greeted each other at the club that evening with “Come stai?” and “Bene, bene”. Then they sat down, slipped into silence, and locked their eyes on to the television, which was tuned into the Italian channel Rai Due and beamed out the final kilometres of stage 16 of the Tour de France.

British and French colonies rarely absorbed the habits of their colonial masters with ease, but Eritrea did – in spite of a humiliating fascist apartheid system. The colonisers wanted to make Asmara a home from home, so they built a city of pastel shades, mottled brickwork and ornate stone mosaics. It was also a laboratory for bold architectural styles – rationalism, futurism, monumentalism – that would never pass muster in Italy. The result is a cocktail of convex façades, jutting balconies and porthole windows. Ancient Fiat 850s still trundle down Harnet Avenue, the main drag, which is lined with palm trees reminiscent of southern Italy. And when the sun sets, the avenue floods with Asmarinos out for the passeggiata, or evening stroll, which they punctuate with espressos in cafés, plates of lasagne or scoops of ice-cream from the gelaterias. No wonder so many travel writers write glowing accounts of an African dolce vita.

But they omit the country’s dark side. The guerrillas of the liberation struggle have become the ministers of an autocratic regime whose secrecy, sealed borders and intolerance of dissent have attracted the same “pariah state” labels often applied to Kim Jong-il’s North Korea. “They have always been control freaks,” one Eritrean told me in Nairobi before I left for Asmara. In that conversation, I first felt the shadow of fear cast by the regime’s iron rule.

Michela Wrong, a former FT journalist and author of I Didn’t Do It For You, which charts the country’s history, told me by e-mail: “Trouble is, no one will want to be seen talking to you inside Eritrea itself. And you need to be very careful not to quote people and not to get people into trouble by even being seen with them.” A United Nations official who has worked in the country warned: “People may sidle up to you and say critical things to test you. Best to respond positively and say how great Eritrea is.” When I tried to fix a meeting with another Eritrean in Nairobi via a friend of a friend, I first had to persuade him I was not an Eritrean government agent; he was convinced there was no other way I could have got a visa. (I got it by sending an e-mail request to the information minister and following it up with a phone call a week later.) By the time I arrived at Asmara airport, where a flunky from the information ministry tapped me on the shoulder as I was changing money, I had been sucked into the culture of suspicion. Then I opened my hotel wardrobe. It was lined with an old copy of the Financial Times.

Diplomats in Asmara said they took it for granted that some of their Eritrean employees were spying on them. The manager of a café told me his regulars included security agents who sat eavesdropping on conversations. I was warned there were informers on every corner. A taxi driver expressed the mood by clenching his fist into a trembling ball of tension. “The generals, the colonels, they are sooo…” he said with a grimace, struggling for the word as his knuckles looked ready to snap. “So straight.”

. . .

For the first few minutes of my encounter with the straight-man-in-chief, Isaias Afewerki, the president who has stamped his domineering character on the regime, I was left contemplating his sandals. He had breezed by with a cursory handshake in the presidential reception house and swept into the interview room where he sat down on a sofa. He was encircled by a huddle of advisers and photographers so all I could see through the doorway were the black sandals on the ends of his long legs.

The sandal is a symbol of the struggle Isaias (family names go first in Eritrea) waged through the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front, the guerrilla army that overthrew the Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991 and paved the way for a referendum on Eritrean independence two years later. They were a rigid, determined force that at their peak numbered more than 90,000, with an unwavering sense of righteousness, committed to discipline and equality, proud of their self-reliance and ready to sacrifice everything for the cause. The EPLF could not afford boots for the craggy mountains where they carved out a stronghold of subterranean bunkers, so fighters had to wear slip-on sandals made from melted-down tyres and more suited to the beach. The centre of Asmara is now graced by a six-metre pair of sandals set on a plinth.

For many former guerrillas in government, the scars of the struggle are physical: they have trouble getting through airport metal detectors because they have so much shrapnel lodged in their bodies. But the deeper wounds are psychological, rooted in the indifference of foreign governments, the United Nations and the international media to their struggle. It has created “an odd mix of xenophobia and supremacy” in the regime, one diplomat said. Everyone was against us; we triumphed on our own.

That may explain why Isaias, an intense, abrasive man with a sheriff’s moustache, has no time for polite diplomacy. His regime is not blighted by corruption. He has not created a Kim Jong-il-style personality cult. But he has purged his critics ruthlessly since the guerrilla days. He has barricaded himself into a defensive bunker from which he surveys a world of conspiracy theories and “special interests” plotting against him. “You may represent one of those groups,” he told me. His only obvious international friend is Qatar.

One of the biggest enemies, meanwhile, is the CIA, which Isaias accuses of funding Eritrean opposition groups in exile and fabricating charges that Eritrea is supporting Islamist insurgents linked to al-Qaeda in war-ravaged Somalia. The other nemesis is Ethiopia. Its prime minister led a rebel group from northern Ethiopia that joined forces with Isaias to topple Mengistu in 1991, but the former comrades-in-arms fell out in 1998 over a two-year border war that killed at least 70,000 people. An independent commission ruled in 2002 that Ethiopia should return the disputed territory to Eritrea, but it has not been forced to do so – further proof to the Eritrean regime of the world’s indifference.

. . .

It was different in the heady days after independence, when the west fawned over Isaias and entrepreneurs from the diaspora flocked home. The president pledged to introduce multiparty democracy and free markets. Progress towards those goals came slowly but surely in the 1990s, the centrepiece being the drafting of a new constitution. Then, all of a sudden, they were abandoned.

The border war is often given as the explanation, but Eritreans still debate whether Isaias ever meant what he said about liberalism. Some say he had been willing to experiment but started backtracking once he saw that openness could not be reconciled with his disciplinary instincts. Others say it was always a façade to win US blessing for the ejection of Mengistu. What is clear is that the regime has used the spectre of security threats to justify its authoritarianism. “We could have done better without this conflict,” Isaias said. “We could have done better without this psyche of having a conflict that is not resolved, being prepared for any eventuality. That limits your resources but, again, you don’t have any other choice.”

In 2001, he jailed 15 senior members of the ruling party who had voiced concern about the slide to one-man rule. Denied trial, some are feared to have died in shipping-container prisons in the desert. Civil society organisations and the free press were shut down and several journalists were thrown in jail. Elections planned for that year were postponed indefinitely. Freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and freedom of speech were severely curtailed and remain so today.

When I told Isaias that there was a climate of fear on the streets he responded with sarcasm. “It’s a very important discovery on your part. You’ve been able to discover this in how many hours?” I said I’d been in the country for two days. “It’s very unique. You must have a very unique brain,” he said.

“I don’t think so,” I said.

“To be able to know and read everything in this country in a matter of hours, it’s amazing,” he said. “You must be a superhuman.”

. . .

On the streets of Asmara, it did not take long to identify the single least popular government programme: compulsory military service. A year and a half of national service is mandatory for men and women and it begins with six months at Sawa, a desolate training camp where teenagers are levered out of bed at 4am and put through gruelling military drills, while also having to prepare for their high school exams.

In what began as small talk – on the steps of the Catholic cathedral, outside a pizza joint, in a clothes shop – young women told me, in tones of hushed sadness, about its effects. If you don’t go, you don’t graduate, said one frizzy-haired 22-year-old recounting her experience of the camp. “They want you to understand what it’s like to be away from home for so long, what they went through.” Stoicism is waning: most conscripts in the past two years were born after the end of the struggle and the rumours from Sawa are that they have been more unruly than their predecessors.

After Sawa, the majority of men serve in the military, many dug into trenches braced for the Ethiopian attack that may never come. Others are given back-breaking jobs in construction or farming. A few are set to work in government offices in the capital. If you stay at the state-owned Asmara Palace hotel – once run under contract by the InterContinental group – you will probably be served by conscripts.

The young women I met had two objections to this system. The first was that conscripts are paid a pittance: no more than 450 nakfa – less than £20 – a month. The second was that service can go on indefinitely. Many people stay indentured well beyond the official 18 months, unable to pursue their own ambitions until they receive a “demobilisation” notice. It can arrive at any time – or not at all. Some of those recruited as fresh-faced teenage boys are still working as conscripts in their forties. The total number in national service today is estimated at more than 500,000.

“You take a child, a child who could be a carpenter, an astronaut, a pope, and you turn them into nothing. For what? For a stupid dispute between you and Meles [Zenawi, Ethiopia’s prime minister],” said one businessman who returned after independence but has lost faith in the regime.

A young woman told me it was possible to scrape by on a national service salary if you lived with your parents, but that it was impossible for young men to save enough money to pay for a wedding. The problem was often academic anyway, she added, because conscripts were not going to meet any girls while they were dug into foxholes.

The 22-year-old said she “sneaked out” of national service after Sawa, a move that would get a man thrown in jail. When I asked her if she would go to the front line if war broke out again with Ethiopia, she said: “No. I’d run away. Seriously, what’s the point? You’re gonna die.”

. . .

National service may in reality have little to do with Ethiopia. One theory is that external threats are used as a pretext by Isaias for another objective: economic dictatorship. In the past five or so years, the regime has begun to create a command economy where it controls resource allocation, production, distribution and consumption. Shackling a big chunk of the workforce is an essential element. Isaias denies he is pursuing Soviet-style central planning, but says state intervention is justified when it ensures resources are distributed equitably. The country has never been rich. But by withdrawing licences from private businesses, making farmers sell produce to the state at fixed prices, maintaining a monopoly on imports and dictating how the country’s scant dollar reserves are used, the regime is strangling wealth creation. Eritrea suffers from shortages of everything from diesel and tea to batteries and flour. It recently went without domestic beer for eight months because the government would not give the state-owned brewery the dollars it needed to buy malt.

The shortages have preserved an impressive recycling culture (I saw a defunct fridge being converted into a chicken coop), but they create hardship too. The number of beggars in Asmara has jumped in recent years, a sign of desperation in a country where people have such a strong sense of pride. The regime provides monthly food rations to some families – a few kilograms of flour, spaghetti, red pepper, and so on – but in the poor Geza Berhanu neighbourhood, people told me they were not enough.

Isaias told me short-term pain was necessary for long-term gain: “The whole population will have to sacrifice a breakfast, for example, and you can use that saving for putting in place a road.”

The UN World Food Programme can’t alleviate the hunger because it was shut down in 2005 after the regime decided that its handouts were demeaning. Most international aid agencies have been driven out, too: there were 38 at the peak in the 1990s but today just four survive. “The self-reliance philosophy is admirable,” said the diplomat, “but they’ve taken it to an illogical extreme where it becomes self-defeating.”

The big question is how the place survives at all. The answer lies with the beles diaspora, who number close to a million and whose remittances are estimated to make up 25 to 30 per cent of Eritrea’s gross domestic product, the second highest proportion in the world after Somalia. Expatriate Eritreans also pay a 2 per cent tax on income via their nearest embassy. If they do not comply, the embassies refuse to issue permits to visit home and their relatives in Eritrea are often harassed.

Eritrea’s dependence on the diaspora is the biggest hole in the regime’s claims of self-sufficiency. It is also its biggest political weakness. If Isaias led a genuine totalitarian dictatorship, it would not simply control what people ate and did and said; it would control what they thought. But most Eritreans have not been brainwashed. Free thinking in the country still thrives and is nourished by the flow of influences that began with Italian colonialism and continues today via relatives in Europe and North America who provide a personal window on to richer, freer lives.

Asmarinos wear Chicago Bulls shirts and Oakley sunglasses sent from overseas; the latest evening craze is salsa classes; and on the day I left, the Miss Eritrea beauty contest was going on. It is a place where school children are taught in English from the age of 11, and where their parents can buy satellite dishes to receive CNN and the BBC. So while the regime is turning inwards, the people have embraced globalisation. That is why Eritreans are not accepting a status quo of hunger and repression. Instead they are asking: what happened to the dream we fought for?

. . .

“I don’t think anyone who came back after independence has become what they wanted to be,” the businessman told me. “Some, because they were unlucky. Some, because they had unrealistic expectations. But mostly because of the government saying: ‘You cannot do this, you must do that.’ Making things so difficult.”

The new struggle in Eritrea is over the country’s spirit. Isaias’s vision of that spirit is still informed by the guerrilla years, symbolised by the fig cactus itself: a prickly survivor, thriving in adversity; tough, resilient and nobody’s friend. Many Eritreans, however, want to move on, and their model is the beles diaspora: driven by betterment, not bitterness; a desire to take advantage of the world, not to prove they don’t need it.

At least 43,000 people voted against the regime with their feet last year, braving harsh terrain and army shoot-to-kill orders to flee to Sudan or Ethiopia. Eritrea was the second-biggest source of asylum seekers in the world, according to the UN, a striking position for a country with the world’s 113th biggest population.

The frizzy-haired 22-year-old has decided to complete her national service so she can try to obtain an exit visa legally. “When I was younger, I had hopes and dreams here,” she said. “Now I don’t expect anything. I take things as they come. Dreams don’t come true in Eritrea.”

Barney Jopson is the FT’s East Africa correspondent. To read the full interview with Isaias Afewerki, go to

Ethiopia says won’t let in "color revolutionaries" observers to 2010 polls

By Tesfa-alem Tekle

September 19, 2009(ADDIS ABABA) — Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said that his country will invite foreign observers to the up-coming national elections but added his administration will screen observers to avoid "color revolutionaries" slip in.

"We will let in African, European and other foreign observers to inspect at next year’s election on conditions that they only center on the process of the election rather than interfering to outcomes and take sides" Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said at a news conference later this week.

The premier said that his administration had learned a lot — on this regard — from previous election and it will make sure that the same mistakes are not repeated in the up-coming election.

"We will make sure that the type of color revolutionaries, we had in 2005 election, don’t find their way here for observation" he said, adding "we will do the necessary screening."

By color revolutionaries, Mr. Meles was alluding to Anna Gomez, chief of the EU election observers to Ethiopia’s 2005 election.

In 2005, Gomez accused Zenawi-led ruling party, Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) of rigging the election.

At the time, the Ethiopian government blamed Gomez of fueling 2005’s post-election violence which left nearly 200 people killed in the capital, Addis Ababa.

The Ethiopian government accused her of siding with the then main opposition rival, Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), saying Gomez had personal relations with the leaders of the opposition group. Also she had been accused of inciting the public to reverse the election outcomes in the Georgian model of Orange Revolution.

Despite the recent growing opposition claims that they are already facing harassment in their campaigns, the Ethiopian government says it is determined to conduct a peaceful, fair and democratic election in 20

HRW warns Britain over Ethiopia rights guarantees

ADDIS ABABA — Human Rights Watch on Thursday warned Britain against relying on Ethiopian guarantees that it will not torture suspects deported to the African country.

The two countries signed an agreement in December allowing Ethiopia to obtain custody of its citizens detained in Britain after giving "diplomatic assurances" that they will not be mistreated.

"The UK government should not rely on unreliable 'diplomatic assurances' against torture to deport national security suspects to Ethiopia," the group said in a letter to the British government.

"Ethiopia's record of torture of security suspects is all too clear. The agreement is itself a tacit admission that torture continues to be a major problem in Ethiopia," said Tom Porteous, the US-based watchdog's director in London.

HRW said concerns are "at their gravest" when individuals are detained on suspicion of affiliation with armed opposition, insurgent or terrorist group.

It said it had documented cases in which suspects were subject to repeated kicking and beating with electric cables, rifle butts, and other materials, as well as having bottles tied to their testicles.

It added that it had evidence that women and girls have been raped while being detained in military barracks in Ethiopia's Somali region, where a secessionist group has waged an armed struggle.

The deal, similar to those signed by Britain with Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, represents an "effort to circumvent the strict 'no return' obligations under the UN Convention against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights," it said.

Ethiopian rejected the claims.

"Torture is forbidden by law here. Ethiopia is a country where human rights are respected," government spokesman Bereket Simon told AFP in Addis Ababa.

"The report is nothing but a political gimmick. It has nothing to do with human rights."

MPs accuse Finance Minister of corruption

MOGADISHU, Somalia Sep 19 (Garowe Online) - A group of lawmakers in Somalia have publicly criticized the Horn of Africa country's finance minister, accusing him of mismanaging public funds and taking steps to "destroy" the interim government, Radio Garowe reports.

The group of lawmakers included: MP Abdullahi Ahmed Afrah, MP Farah Ali Abdi, MP Mohamed Ali Omar, MP Ali Yusuf Osman, MP Dahir Abdulkadir Muse, and MP Shukri Haji Ahmed.

MP Afrah, who spoke at a Saturday press conference in Mogadishu on behalf of the lawmakers, said Finance Minister Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden has taken steps to destroy the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) led by President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.

MP Afrah
"The Finance Minister illegally misuses the small income collected at the port and airport in Mogadishu," said MP Afrah, who is a member of the TFG parliament's financial accountability subcommittee.

Further, the lawmakers accused the Finance Minister of "directly mismanaging donor funds," particularly financial donations from Arab countries that support the TFG in Mogadishu.

"Government funds are not deposited at the Central Bank and there is no paper trail for accountability purposes," MP Afrah added.

No 2009 budget

The group of lawmakers said Finance Minister Sharif Hassan has not presented the 2009 budget to the TFG parliament.

"Sharif Hassan is currently leading an illegal process to mint Somali Shillings without parliament approval, which will have a negative impact on our [Somali] economy," MP Afrah said. READ: Somalia govt to mint new currency, parliament demands approval

Further, the Somali MPs accused the country's Finance Minister of entering into a controversial agreement with Kenya, whereby imported products from Kenya are taxed in Nairobi before arriving in parts of south-central Somalia.

According to the MPs, this scheme, which does not include imports to regional authorities in Somaliland and Puntland, is led by "relatives" of Finance Minister Sharif Hassan.

Controversy over Puntland

"[Finance Minister] Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden is the most influential member of President Sheikh Sharif's government, and any Minister who disagrees with him gets fired," said MP Afrah, who spoke for the group of MPs in Mogadishu.

He specifically noted Prof. Mohamed Abdi Gandi and Mohamed Abdullahi Oomar, the former ministers of defense and foreign affairs for the TFG, respectively.

The group of MPs, who issued a strongly-worded statement referring to the Finance Minister as "Sharif Sakiin," or Sharif the Razor Blade, said he plans to derail last month's agreement between the TFG and the Puntland State government in northern Somalia.

"Sharif Hassan is directly involved in a scheme to create friction between the TFG and Puntland, which is rooted in the agreement Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid [Ali Sharmake] signed [with Puntland] which called for the establishment of a Somali naval base in Puntland to fight pirates," said MP Afrah, who was reading aloud the written statement.

The Finance Minister was accused of "using Fisheries Minister Abdirahman Ibbi" to ink an anti-piracy cooperation deal with neighboring Djibouti, a move that angered Puntland President Abdirahman Farole. READ: Puntland leader criticizes federal govt ministers

The written statement included a brief political history of Sharif Hassan since his rise in Somali national politics in 2004, when he was elected as the TFG parliament's first Speaker.

He later joined the Islamist opposition and rejoined the TFG again in 2008, when Sheikh Sharif's Islamist camp signed a peace deal with the TFG. He was appointed as Somalia's Minister of Finance when Sheikh Sharif became Somali President in January 2009 at the conclusion of UN-brokered talks in Djibouti.

Source: Garowe Online

UK election team dismayed at termination of Somaliland Election

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The UK-based team coordinating election observers for the much-delayed presidential elections in the internationally unrecognised Republic of Somaliland has expressed its “profound disappointment and concern” at news that the poll will now be postponed indefinitely.

Progressio (the former Catholic Institute for International Relations), the Development Planning Unit at University College London (UCL) and Somaliland Focus UK say in a joint statement: “We hoped that the [current political] situation in Somaliland could have been resolved to set Somaliland’s democratisation process back on track. Instead it has become worse.”

It continues: “With the extended term of [the incumbent] President Daahir Rayaale Kaahin due to expire on 29 October [2009] and no constitutional protocol to deal with this unprecedented situation, we have real fears for the country’s democracy and stability.”

The statement adds: “We urge all stakeholders to come together to solve this impasse, to ensure that a process can be put in place for a legitimate poll, with as little delay as possible, but with genuine commitment from all players and a realistic approach to the time needed to ensure a smooth and proper political process.”

Somaliland's National Electoral Commission (NEC) announced last week that the much-delayed poll will not go ahead as planned on 27 September 2009. In recent days, violence has erupted on the streets of Hargeisa leading to the deaths of three Somaliland citizens and the arrest of a number of journalists.

Progressio’s Advocacy Coordinator for Africa, Dr Steve Kibble, said: “Somaliland has a long history of dialogue and consensus-building and is often characterised as a beacon of democratisation in Africa. Somaliland’s leaders must now continue this tradition of mediation and work to achieve a breakthrough.”

Leading Somaliland scholar, Professor Ioan M. Lewis, said: “It would be desperately sad if violent incidents were allowed to mar Somaliland's unique reputation for democratic stability which so sharply differentiates it from Somalia.”

The UK-based team, along with FOPAG (Forum for Peace and Governance) in Somaliland, was invited to lead the election observation mission by the Somaliland National Electoral Commission in January. The team has been tasked with coordinating international election observers from four continents and preparing a report on the conduct of the campaign and poll following the vote. Support for the mission is being provided by the UK government.

This week, leading authorities on Somaliland – including notable scholars and individual members of the election observation team – issued an open letter to President Daahir Rayaale Kaahin and opposition party leaders Ahmed Mohamed Siilaanyo and Faisal Ali Waraabe calling for a “speedy resolution” to the crisis.

To read the full text of the observation team’s latest statement, see:

How hackers extorted $1.14m from University of California, San Francisco

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