Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Somalia: The Road for Post-Transitional Government

Somalia braces to stand on its own feet                    Photo courtesy
Somalia has ended the 20 year-long of transitional and interim administrations that had spawned statelessness, protracted conflicts, political vacuum and warlordism. After more than two decades, the country assumed its full responsibility of post transitional government, adopted a new and – federal Constitution, appointed new president, PM and downsized parliamentarians. Given Somali's recent past, this was a historic moment. 
Basically, the new post-transitional government is responsible, with help of international partners, for its state and security. Already, Somali forces together with coalition partners are taking over key towns from the insurgents, notably Kismayo, the third largest city in Somalia and al-Shabaab's biggest revenue-generating town and ramping up their operations. In addition, the aim for post-transitional government is, in essence, to let Somalia to stand on its own – politically and militarily – and have four years mandate to structure and lay the groundwork for a prosperous Somalia. Moving forward, the African Union has formally proposed to the UN to lift the arms embargo on Somalia, to enable the new government establish its own security.
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud represents the new crop of leaders who are genuine and seek to resuscitate Somalia. His appointment itself was a rare moment for Somalia; unlike previous governments where the presidents and parliamentarians were cooked outside and parachuted on the ground, he was appointed inside the country – Mogadishu – and enjoyed a degree of legitimacy. This new political momentum would not have been possible without the courage of the previous transitional government who, despite all its setbacks, paved the way for responsible transition. Of equal importance was the international community's unflagging commitment in ending the roadmap process that yielded this nascent transformation. 
But looking ahead, and as the dest begins to settle slowly, the prospect for successful transition is in the offing – at least in the foreseeable future. Some fundamental facts remain unchanged; government institutions are woefully dysfunctional, insecurity has reached into unacceptable level, Somali forces heavily dependent on AMISOM 's assistance in every step of the way, the government is in bankrupt. As yet, and despite al-Shabaab been severely degraded, they still remain very potent force and control a sizable swath of territory in the central part of the country, the country finds under sway of competing – yet at odds – foreign powers. Addressing these challenges will not be easy, but keeping them in mind will help the president to avoid repeating past mistakes.
Chronic Insecurity
First and most important is the security. In the days leading to the presidential election, countless people have been killed including seven journalists, politicians and district commissioners, showing how security situation remains very tenuous. Moreover, al-Shabaab are hiding among the local people, intimidating and killing journalists and government officials. Their assassinations, hit-and-run tactic – sort of asymmetrical guerrilla warfare, remain a lethal threat to local population. The new government, for its part, must encourage local residents to tip-off suspicions, enforce the local government systems. The last government, for its credit, have fairly managed on this and collaborated with local population to ensure community-centered security. This is very important measure to enhance local security. For years, challenges have been tackling the widespread insecurity, which is the biggest source of instability in Somalia.
Most dangerously, a recent report by the Saferworld – a UK based think-tank, found that an staggering number of  Somali police work for private companies and individuals largely due to the the government's inability to pay their salaries. Rebuilding Somali national security forces entails a concert steps and shaped with realistic plan. The president must improve the quality, the morale, of Somali army and police, reimburse their overdue salaries and strengthen central and regional administrations. Ultimately, Somali national and cohesive army can secure and stabilize the country.
Governance Institutions
Another unrelenting obstacle for the government lies in the weak government institutions. Over the past decade, there have been numerous transitional governments that were paralyzed by infightings and run a government without institutions. The only exception to this is the National Security Intelligence who prop up by other Western intelligence agencies but performed reasonably well to push the insurgents at bay. Rightly or wrongly, previous governments were widely regarded as syndicate corrupted officials who put their interest first, and second the country. At this point, Somalia lacks functional government institutions that is capable of delivering basic services including health, education, water and all social infrastructures. The new government must plan to address these crippling government institutions who feed instability, extremism and poverty.
Than come to Kismayo, by far the most complex issue of the day in Somalia. Obviously, the fall of Kismayo has dealt a huge blow to al-Shabaab's marginalization but its is harbinger to more sinister things to come: the intensification of deep-seated inter-ethnic rifts. Historically, Kismayo has been a multi-ethnic region with no specific clan configuration. Its very complex place where local realities often diverse. Secondly, while the coalition troops have successful toppled al-Shabaab, the real test is now weather they will succeed in building effective local governance system – some kind of tribal local structure, that fills the vacuum and provides the basic services to the local people. Thirdly, and perhaps more dangerously, its the long-established regional rivalries between Kenya and Ethiopia over Nairobi's driven Jubbaland Initiative, which is problematic on many level.
Therefore, in the grand scheme of things, the debacle of Kismayo will only intensify the regional rivalries – through directly or by proxy –, to the detriment of the new government. Fourthly, the role of Mogadishu government has been blatantly undermined, adding fuel to the already deep-rooted suspicion by the Somali government in Kenya's motivation towards Kismayo. To avert future fallout,  IGAD, the inter-governmental body's role is very critical to coordinate and provide frameworks for cooperation between the stakeholders.
Talks with Al-Shabaab
Unlike his predecessor, president Hassan has realistic narrative towards negotiating with al-Shabaab. Like he often says, al-Shabaab made up of two camps – nationalist (Somalis) and global Jihadist (foreigns) –, all with their own views of negotiation and peace agreement. There're a considerable elements, mostly a frustrated and disoriented youths, who can be reconcile and pursued.  And this is the camp the president wants to bring into the process, and he's right about it. Then, there is small – but quite powerful – global Jihadist inspired hard-core contingent whose vision for Somalia, among other things, is to become a launching pad for terrorist activity and keep Somalia in anarchy for their own benefit and safety. There can be no accommodation room for this camp.
To avoid past mistakes, the president needs to articulate his negotiation strategy package. A blank-check negotiation wont help, the president must appoint an interlocutor or governmental body to spearhead the process. 
For its part, international community, while continuing its decapitation figures, should abandon its narrow focus on fighting terrorism to a broader approach of reconciliation and diplomatic engagement by strengthening the government institutions, providing resources and support for the national reconciliation project.
External Players
Even if Somalis agrees on broad-based internal political settlement, the country still needs a broad-based external political settlement as well. This where the international community's role comes to mind. For years, Somalis and non-Somalis alike, have questioned – and critiqued – about the external interferences in Somalia's own affair. Aside from the external elements, Somali leaders are well to blame when they invite external actors to take part and reconcile in their internal disputes. This practice was notorious in the past government. For the sake of their own stability, neighboring countries, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Djibouti need to agree on coherent and constructive strategy for stabilizing the country, one that respects Somalis sovereignty and forswear internal intervention.
The greater international donor community should support, with no strings attached, Somali's plan for stability, governance and developments. At the end of it, the international community's interest in Somalia is to see Somalia become stable, a country that is at peace with itself and to the world. And this should be the ultimate goal for the international community.
The importance of  minimizing the foreign intervention was, however, recognized by many including Ken Menkhus, one of Somali's eminent scholar, through a recent Nairobi Forum and contended: “As Somalis are sick and tired of statelessness, perpetuate conflicts, warlordism and piracy they're, equally, sick and tired of us – the international community.”
By Abdihakim Aynte.
The author is an independent analyst.

Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire jailed

Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire in court in September 2011Victoire Ingabire was arrested months after returning from exile
Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire has been found guilty at her treason trial and sentenced to eight years in jail.
The prosecution had requested a life sentence for the charges of threatening state security.
The court also found her guilty of "belittling" Rwanda's 1994 genocide.
Ingabire was not in court to hear the verdict as she has been boycotting the trial, saying it is politically motivated.
The Unified Democratic Forces leader was arrested in April 2010 and was barred from standing in elections later that year.
The BBC's Prudent Nsengiyumva in the capital, Kigali, says her lawyer, the deputy UDF leader and a number of her supporters were in court.
They were stunned by the verdict, expecting her to receive a life sentence, our reporter says.
She had also faced terrorism charges, but these were dropped during the two-year trial.
The UDF has 30 days to appeal against the verdict.
Ingabire, a Hutu, returned from exile in the Netherlands in January 2010 - and has been in jail since her arrest.
She has questioned why Rwanda's official memorial to the 1994 genocide does not include any Hutus.
Most of the 800,000 people killed were ethnic Tutsis but Hutu moderates were also slaughtered by the Hutu extremists.

Sandy steals spotlight from Romney

Mitt Romney: "Make the difference you can"
Exactly a week away from election day, and campaigning is on pause.
The candidates themselves, at least, are restraining themselves from overt politicking - but the calculation for each man is very different.
The White House says that the president was updated through the night as Hurricane Sandy carved its way up the coast - signing two declarations of disaster.
You can look at the politics of this positively or negatively. He really would be in trouble if people thought he was ignoring a major disaster to save his political career, travelling to swing states to campaign instead of staying in the White House.
But leading a country at a time of crisis, speaking for and to America is the very essence of what being a president is all about. So, if he does it well, it might help on the margins.
He has earned praise from one leading Republican, the governor of New Jersey. Chris Christie, usually a severe critic, said the president had been outstanding and deserved great credit for cutting through red tape and getting help to his state.
Mitt Romney cannot really compete with that.
President Obama: "The storm is not yet over"
But he showed good taste by converting an Ohio rally into a storm relief event.
Supporters were encouraged to bring along canned food and essential supplies to help those trapped.
As I am writing this, hurtling down the motorway to Washington (no, I'm not actually driving), I haven't seen the event. Reports suggest it was slightly weird but, overall, got the tone right.
There was no politics in Mr Romney's short speech.
Instead, he said: "I appreciate the fact that people in Dayton got up this morning. Some went to the grocery store, I see, and picked up a couple of things that these families will need, and I appreciate your generosity.
"It's part of the American spirit, the American way, to give to people who are in need, and your generosity this morning touches my heart."
But the tactics of respect for the storm and its victims are going to diverge. Mitt Romney risks being squeezed out of the debate and is resuming campaigning tomorrow.
The president will not be campaigning. Being seen to be doing his job, and doing it well, is worth a thousand rallies.
Mark Mardell, North America editorArticle written by Mark MardellMark MardellNorth America editor

The hurricane stealing the candidates' thunder

The approach of Hurricane Sandy is pulling politics out of shape in the last few days before Americans head to the polls, writes the BBC's Mark Mardell.

Storm Sandy: Transport chaos as floods recede

Jody Herrington, New Jersey charity worker: "There are rollercoasters in the water"
At least 40 people have been killed, millions have no power and transport has been crippled across the north-eastern US as storm Sandy heads north.
In New York City, 18 people have been killed and the flooded subway remains closed until further notice.
More than 18,000 flights were cancelled, though reduced services are to resume in New York and New Jersey.
President Barack Obama, who has suspended his election campaign, is due to visit affected areas in New Jersey.
The storm was causing heavy snowfalls over West Virginia on Tuesday afternoon. It was due to turn towards western New York state before moving into Canada on Wednesday.
Though forecast to weaken, it was expected to cause heavy rain and flooding.
Earlier, Sandy killed nearly 70 people as it hit the Caribbean.
'Devastating storm'

At the Scene

Having removed himself from the election campaign to concentrate on the storm, President Obama will now see at first hand just how destructive Hurricane Sandy has been. He'll travel to Atlantic City where the Republican governor, Chris Christie - normally a fierce critic - will show him scenes of widespread destruction along the Jersey Shore. They'll meet some of those who have lost homes, as well as the emergency teams who have been working around the clock since the weekend.
Across several states, tens of thousands of people spent a second night in school gymnasiums, community centres and hotel rooms, with or without electricity. In a converted detention centre in Teterboro, across the Hudson River from upper Manhattan, I found evacuees receiving food and a bed for the night, but anxious about their flooded homes. In the nearby communities of Little Ferry and Moonachie, the streets were dark, deserted and, in some places, still under water.
At least eight million homes and businesses are without power because of the storm, says the US Department of Energy.
Sandy brought a record storm surge of almost 14ft (4.2m) to central Manhattan, well above the previous record of 10 feet (3m) during Hurricane Donna in 1960, the National Weather Service said.
"This was a devastating storm, maybe the worst that we have ever experienced," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
New York's subway system sustained the worst damage in its 108-year history, said Joseph Lhota, head of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).
Subway tunnels were flooded and electrical equipment will have to be cleaned before the network can re-open.
Mr Bloomberg said there was "no timeline" for when the subway would restart, but he hoped buses could begin running again on Wednesday.
It is likely to be two or three days before power is restored to most of the city, Mr Bloomberg said.
John F Kennedy airport and Newark in New Jersey are due to reopen at 07:00 (11:00 GMT) on Wednesday, with a reduced service, though New York's LaGuardia airport will stay shut.
The New York Stock Exchange says it will also re-open after two days' closure, as will the Nasdaq exchange. The last time the stock exchange shut down for two days was in 1888.

The greatest storms on Earth

Nasa image of hurricane Sandy
  • A tropical storm is classified as a hurricane when wind speeds reach 74 mph (115km/h)
  • A hurricane can expend as much energy as 10,000 nuclear bombs over its lifecycle
  • The hurricane's spiral is due to the Coriolis Effect, which is generated by the Earth's rotation
The Path commuter train service, which links New Jersey and New York City, is likely to remain suspended for seven to 10 days, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told a news conference.
The tidal surge from the storm left fields of debris 7ft (2.25m) high and carried small railway goods cars onto elevated sections of the New Jersey Turnpike, he said.
President Obama was due to tour disaster areas in New Jersey on Wednesday with Governor Christie.
Mr Christie, a Republican and staunch supporter of Mr Romney, went out of his way to praise the Democratic president for his handling of the storm.
"I spoke to the president three times yesterday," Mr Christie told CNN. "He's been incredibly supportive and helpful to our state and not once did he bring up the election... If he's not bringing it up, I'm certainly not going to bring it up."
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney resumed low-key campaigning on Tuesday, converting a rally into a storm relief event in the swing state of Ohio.
The cost of clearing up after the storm is likely to run to $30-40bn (£18-24bn), says the BBC's business correspondent Mark Gregory - far less than than the $100bn cost of clearing up after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
In other developments:
  • US federal agencies in Washington DC will re-open on Wednesday
  • Fire destroyed about 50 homes in the New York City borough of Queens
  • More than 200 patients were evacuated from New York University's Tisch Hospital after power went out and a backup generator failed
  • Three nuclear reactors have been closed due to electrical supply and cooling system problems; a fourth was put on alert because of rising water.
President Obama has also declared emergencies in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Are you or have you been affected by Hurricane Sandy? What is the situation in your area? Send us your experiences using the form below.
Send your pictures and videos to or text them to61124 (UK) or +44 7624 800 100 (International). If you have a large file you can upload here.

UN report: Opium cultivation rising in Burma

Opium poppy (file image)Burma accounts for 25% of opium grown in the world

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Opium growing has increased in Burma for a sixth year running despite eradication efforts, a UN report says.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime said land used for opium had risen by 17% this year, from nearly 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) to 51,000 hectares.
Burma is the second largest opium grower in the world after Afghanistan.
Almost all of the opium it produces is grown in Shan and Kachin states, which have seen longstanding conflict between the military and ethnic rebel groups.
'Toxic combination'
Citing figures from the Burmese government, the report said almost 24,000 hectares of poppy fields had been eradicated in 2012 - about four times the figure in 2011.
Gary Lewis, UNODC representative in South East Asia, said the situation on the ground was "very complex". In areas where opium was grown, there was ''a toxic combination of guns, money and drugs'', he said.
The army and rebel fighters often profit from allowing the trade to continue. Farmers, meanwhile, say the instability means they have little choice but to continue growing the lucrative poppy plant - which is used to make heroin.
Burma accounts for 25% of opium grown in the world, while Laos accounts for 3%, said the report, entitled the South East Asia Opium Survey 2012.
In Laos, land used to grow opium increased almost four-fold between 2007 and 2012 to 6,300 hectares.
The recent rise contrasts with the situation from 1998 to 2006, when both Burma and Laos saw big drops - with an 83% reduction in the case of Burma.
Most of Burma's opium is refined into heroin - about half goes to meet the growing market in China, with the rest being sold across South East Asia.
Part of the reason for the sustained growth in the cultivation of this crop is the demand for heroin in Asia, said the report.
But the good news, in the case of Burma, was that there was now ''momentum to find the solution'', Mr Lewis said.
There is support from President Thein Sein's government, which has embarked on a series of reforms.
Ceasefires and political opening up also meant that international organisations such as the UN now have better access to the areas.
The Golden Triangle - where Burma, Thailand and Laos meet - has been notorious for opium and drug smuggling for decades.

Bananas could replace potatoes in warming world

Bananas on the way to market from the Mount Kenya regionBananas could take the place of potatoes in some developing countries

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Climate change could lead to bananas becoming a critical food source for millions of people, a new report says.
Researchers from the CGIAR agricultural partnership say the fruit might replace potatoes in some developing countries.
Cassava and the little known cowpea plant could play increasingly important roles in agriculture as temperatures rise.
People will have to adapt to new and varied menus as traditional crops struggle say the authors.

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When the farmers see the problems they are having with production, they really are willing to shift”
Bruce CampbellCCAFS
Responding to a request from the United Nations' committee on world food security, a group of experts in the field looked at the projected effects of climate change on 22 of the world's most important agricultural commodities.
Blooming bananas
They predict that the world's three biggest crops in terms of calories provided - maize, rice and wheat - will decrease in many developing countries.
They suggest that the potato, which grows best in cooler climates, could also suffer as temperatures increase and weather becomes more volatile.
The authors argue that these changes "could provide an opening for cultivating certain varieties of bananas" at higher altitudes, even in those places that currently grow potatoes.
Dr Philip Thornton is one of those behind the report. He told BBC News that while bananas also have limiting factors, they may be a good substitute for potatoes in certain locations
"It's not necessarily a silver bullet but there may be places where as temperatures increase, bananas might be one option that small holders could start to look at."
Cassava Cassava could help meet food needs in South Asia
The report describes wheat as the world's most important plant derived protein and calories source.
But according to this research, wheat will face a difficult future in the developing world where higher prices for cotton, maize and soybeans have pushed wheat to marginal land, making it more vulnerable to stresses induced by climate change.
One substitute, especially in South Asia, could be cassava which can tolerate a range of climate stresses.
But how easy will it be to get people to adjust to new crops and new diets?
Bruce Campbell is program director of the climate change, agriculture and food security research group (CCAFS) which co-ordinates work among leading institutions around the world. He told BBC News that the types of changes that will happen in the future have already happened in the past.
"Two decades ago there was almost no rice consumption in certain areas of Africa, now there is. People have changed because of the pricing, it's easier to get, it's easier to cook. I think those sort of shifts do occur and I think they will in future."
Protein under pressure
One of the big concerns among researchers is how to tackle the need for protein in the diet. Soybeans are one of the most common sources but are very susceptible to temperature changes.
The scientists say that the cowpea, which is known in sub-Saharan Africa as the "poor man's meat" is drought tolerant and prefers warmer weather and could be a reasonable alternative to soya. The vines of the cowpea can also be used as a feed for livestock.
In some countries, including Nigeria and Niger, farmers have already moved away from cotton production to growing cowpeas.
There are also likely to be developments animal protein sources says the report including a shift from to smaller livestock.
This is an example of something that's happening already," says Bruce Campbell. "There's been quite a shift from cattle keeping to goat keeping in southern Africa in face of droughts - when the farmers see the problems they are having with production, they really are willing to shift.
"Change is really possible. It's not just a crazy notion."

Bahrain tortured teachers

Qatar: Detained ‘Jasmine uprising’ poet being tried in secret

A poet facing a secret trial in Qatar after being detained since last year is a possible prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally if he has been detained solely for his peaceful criticism, Amnesty International has urged as the one-year anniversary of his arrest approaches.
Mohammed al-Ajami – also known as Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb – was arrested on 16 November 2011 in the capital Doha, and later reportedly charged with “inciting to overthrow the ruling system” and “insulting the Amir”.
Posted 7 hours ago

Syria: Free all prisoners of conscience after amnesty

All peaceful activists and other prisoners of conscience detained in Syria must be set free, Amnesty International said today after a mass amnesty was granted ahead of the Eid al-Adha religious festival. 
On Tuesday, President Bashar al-Assad announced a general amnesty, reducing or eliminating prison terms for most crimes.
Posted 7 hours ago

Europe: Act now to help refugees fleeing Syria

On 26 September 2012 at the United Nations General Assembly, David Cameron, the UK’s Prime Minister, accused the United Nations of inaction over the Syria conflict, stating: “The blood of these young children is a terrible stain on the reputation of this United Nations.”
A few months earlier in June 2012, the European Council “strongly condemned the brutal violence and massacres of civilians and urged the Syrian regime to stop immediately its attacks against the civilian population”. 
Posted 7 hours ago

Syria: Indiscriminate bombing in residential neighbourhood in Damascus

A car bomb in a residential neighbourhood of the Syrian capital Damascus on Sunday morning reportedly killed at least 13 people and injured 29 more, including civilians.
The attack was in front of a police station, which may have been the target, located in the heavily-populated residential district of Bab Touma in the capital’s historic Christian quarter, which includes numerous churches and hotels.
Posted 6 days ago

Iran executes 10 men despite international pleas

A shop worker convicted of a drugs-related charge was among 10 men put to death in Iran on Monday morning, despite calls on the country’s authorities by Amnesty International, UN human rights experts and others to halt their executions.
Saeed Sedeghi was permitted a “final meeting” with his mother at Evin Prison on Sunday, when judicial officials announced that his death sentence would be carried out early on Monday.
Posted 6 days ago

Bahrain: Teachers face further jail time after ‘nightmare’ verdict

Two former leaders of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA) received prison sentences on Sunday when an appeal court upheld a guilty verdict in what Amnesty International called another injustice.
Family members called the ruling a “nightmare”. Mahdi 'Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb was sentenced to five years in prison while Jalila al-Salman – who was not present in the courtroom – was handed a six-month sentence. The new ruling reduces their sentences from 10 years’ and three years’ imprisonment, respectively.
Posted 6 days ago

Tunisia: At a crossroads, Tunisia must choose the path of human rights

Progress on human rights in Tunisia that followed the ousting of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is being rolled back by the current Tunisian Government, casting doubt on their commitment to reforms, Amnesty International warned as the country marked the first anniversary of National Constituent Assembly (NCA) elections.
In a new briefing, One step forward, two steps back? the organization examines the challenges facing human rights in Tunisia since the October 2011 elections and identifies worrying trends, making a series  of detailed recommendations.
Posted 6 days ago

Saudi Arabia must halt attempts to stifle peaceful protest

The Saudi Arabian authorities must withdraw their threat to deal “firmly” with people taking part in demonstrations and refrain from detaining those who exercise their right to peaceful protest, Amnesty International said.
The organization’s call came after the Minister of Interior issued a statement last week warning anyone taking part in demonstrations that they would face prosecution and be “firmly dealt with” by members of the security forces.
Posted 6 days ago

Bahrain must quash the convictions of two teachers

Convictions and sentences against two former leaders of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association must be quashed, Amnesty International urged ahead of the final verdict in their trial this weekend.
Teachers Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi 'Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb face three and 10 years in prison, respectively, if the court upholds their convictions and sentences on 21 October. Abu Dheeb is already serving his sentence while al-Salman was previously released on bail.
Posted 10 days ago

Lebanon: Indiscriminate bomb attack in busy residential area of Beirut

A large explosion reportedly from a car bomb attack in the busy Ashrafiya residential district in downtown Beirut killed at least eight people and wounded dozens more on Friday.
Among those reportedly killed was Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, the head of the information branch at Lebanon’s internal security – but numerous bystanders are also believed to be among the dead and wounded.
Posted 10 days ago

Coronavirus Is Battering Africa’s Growing Middle Class

From Kenya to Nigeria, South Africa to Rwanda, the pandemic is decimating the livelihoods of the once-stable workers who were helping ...