Don't join any of these group ISIS, Al Qaida, Al Shabab and Boko haram these are human traffickers

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The African story, told the African way

Africa Investigates

"We were two black Africans doing a job that was normally done by white foreign correspondents."
Last Modified: 17 Nov 2011 10:05

I have just finished doing something I never thought I could do. In the past, I have worked as a fixer for foreign journalists in Zimbabwe; used to running around at someone else's beck and call rather than being the 'action man'. For a long time, I wanted to be able to tell the story of my country and my continent on television but never had an opportunity to do so.
After struggling with this for many years, I have now finally had the chance to tell that story in front of the camera. This is unique to me, as like most African journalists, I have become used to our stories being told by foreigners, some with little or no knowledge of the local landscape or culture. 
Often they came with a pre-conceived story idea which they were then forced to change when they were on the ground. And although an experienced journalist in my own right (I have tried several times before to do a story for international broadcasters), they have often been happier to have the story told by their man, and for them to be in control. They fly in reporters, cameramen and producers from Western capitals and use me merely to set up meetings or arrange interviews, to be their driver or even just to act as a human GPS, telling them where to go.
But now, I have finished making my first television documentary for Al Jazeera and I cannot even express the excitement that I feel. I cannot wait to get my career in this business off the ground and to make another one. And Africa has a lot of untold stories. These are no ordinary stories; they are powerful tales about real people in real situations that can change the world and my continent for the better. That is why I shall always be grateful to Al Jazeera for showing confidence in African investigative journalists and giving people like me an opportunity.
Apart from being able to tell the story of my continent in my own words and encouraging democracy, I have learnt a great deal about broadcasting and gained skills which I can use in the future. I know it is a defining moment not just in my career but can also be an inspiration to others like me who never thought they could do it.
It all started in June when I was invited to visit to an Al Jazeera workshop in Accra, Ghana. At first, the journey seemed to be more of a holiday, an adventure in the African jungle, rather than a business trip. I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into. That week was to be a turning point in my life. In Accra, I met some of the best in the broadcasting industry. Although it took some time to find my feet, it was during this week that I was commissioned to do my first television project, a film called Zimbabwe's Child Exodus - about the difficulties and dangers tens of thousands of children face every year when trying to cross the border from Zimbabwe to South Africa.
Back in Zimbabwe, I was paired with Kenyan television producer/director Peter Murimi. When I drove to the airport to welcome him, I assumed I would meet a bossy man who would make me run around. But there he was: an African like me, quite eager to learn from me, despite the fact that I was a mere green horn who knew nothing in this business.
The following three weeks were to be the most defining moments of my career as a journalist. It was a joy to work with Peter because he understood exactly where I was coming from, since he had also travelled the same road. We faced many hurdles, but somehow we made things work, going through a dozen retakes to get a sequence exactly right or escaping from some of the dangerous situations we encountered.

Peter was patient with me and took me through the tiniest of details in this business, helping me to understand how and why things were done. And him being an African helped a great deal in developing the story that we were following, in understanding the deeper issues behind it. We were two black Africans doing a job that was normally done by white foreign correspondents. But there we were giving our own account in a way which we knew and understood was more genuine.
It happened because Al Jazeera took a gamble on me and threw me into the deep end. They believed in me and kept telling me: "The secret about this business is that there is no secret." And indeed I have learned there is no secret other than believing that you can do it and working hard to tell your own stories.
This series, Africa Investigates, has opened doors for me. Had it not been created, then my dream of being able to tell Africa's story on international television would have remained unfulfilled. But I am not alone. It is a platform to showcase African talents and there are many other fine journalists whose films will feature in the weeks ahead. The fact that Peter and I did this one together is clear testimony that as Africans we can give a global audience an inside perspective that foreign correspondents would never be able to give.

Africa's story has often been about crises, about war, poverty and hunger but Al Jazeera has established a means through which other stories about Africa can be showcased. Those stories may be about Africa's problems too, but in telling them ourselves it shows that we understand them and can work to find our own solutions.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Death of Calif. girl after fight ruled homicide

Students and parents arrive past a memorial, left, outside Willard Elementary School for student Joanna Ramos, 10, in Long Beach, Calif. on Monday Feb. 27,2012. Ramos, who died Friday night after a fight with an 11-year-old in an alley near their elementary school underwent emergency surgery for a blood clot on her brain before her death, her sister said Monday. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — What began as an after-school fight between two young girls over a boy exploded into a homicide investigation Monday, when authorities said a 10-year-old died of a head injury after the confrontation with an 11-year-old classmate.
The finding rattled the already shaken school community at Willard Elementary, where Joanna Ramos attended the fifth grade. She died Friday, about six hours after a brief fight with another girl in an alley near the school in a working-class neighborhood in the port city of Long Beach.
Joanna, who would have turned 11 on March 12, underwent emergency surgery for a blood clot on her brain late Friday after she began vomiting and complained of a headache, her older sister, 17-year-old Vanessa Urbina, told The Associated Press.
Investigators have not detailed what might have led to such an injury. A blow to the head could have caused a deadly trauma, though the circumstances in this case are exceptionally rare.
Punches to the head can often lead to delayed bleeding if a vein is torn, and that can lead to a clot when blood collects on the surface of the brain, said Dr. Keith Black, a neurosurgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
"This is rare, in that I've never seen it in a female, certainly not in a female adolescent," said Black, who was not involved in Joanna's medical care.
Black sees such injuries all the time among older patients and said a blow to the head from one young girl to another could "absolutely" be sufficient to cause enough trauma to lead to death.
Joanna was unconscious by the time she arrived at the emergency room, but hospital staff revived her three times before she went into surgery for the clot, Urbina said.
"After surgery the doctor said she was still alive, and then a few minutes later he comes back and tells us that her heart stopped and they couldn't bring her back," Urbina said, crying as she sat on the steps of the school near a memorial of flowers and balloons.
Police said they have made no arrests and were conducting an investigation that will be presented to prosecutors when it's completed. Coroner's Lt. Fred Corral said Ramos died of blunt force trauma to the head, but he didn't immediately have further details about her injuries.
Worried parents lingered as they dropped off their children Monday in a light rain and wondered aloud how the school, tucked a few blocks off a major city street, could have become the scene of such unexpected violence.
Victoria Pyles said her daughter started classes at the school last week, after the family moved to the neighborhood. Her daughter likes the school, Pyles said, but now she isn't sure whether to leave her there.
"I'm just so confused at this moment, thinking should I take my daughter out of this school," Pyles said. "If this is what is going on, I don't like it. It's very scary."
School officials believe the fight occurred near the school in a 15-minute window between the time school let out and the start of Joanna's after-school program at 2:30 p.m., said Chris Eftychiou, a spokesman for the Long Beach Unified School District.
Joanna didn't have any visible injuries or show any signs of distress for about an hour, but she eventually told staff she felt unwell and was picked up by a relative, he said.
Urbina, the older sister, said Joanna's cousin picked her up. After he mother retrieved her, Joanna vomited in the car all the way home and told her mother she felt sleepy and wanted to go to bed.
Symptoms — such as headache, nausea, lethargy — may not set in for hours and people can mistakenly think that they're fine, Black said.
Typically, he said, the hit to the head would have to be fairly significant to cause a blood clot and often involves the head hitting walls or the ground, but a punch is enough.
"You can certainly get enough of an impact to get enough movement in the brain by a fist to tear a vein, if it's in the right location," Black said.
Police have said the fight lasted less than a minute, did not involve weapons, and no one was knocked to the ground. Detectives interviewed family and friends of both girls, but there was no indication that Joanna was bullied. Seven witnesses to the fight were being interviewed.
A friend of Joanna's saw her as she reported to the after-school program after the fight and said she had blood on her knuckles from wiping at a bloody nose, said Cristina Perez, the friend's mother.
Perez said her daughter, who is 10, heard about plans for the fight during recess earlier in the day and knew to stay away from the alley after school.
"We've just got to pay more attention to our kids too, not just dropping them off at the school. I'm always on my daughter, always," Perez, 30, said as she gathered with other concerned parents outside the school Monday. "I tell her, 'You see a fight (and) you stay away from it.'"
Perez and other mothers said their children told them the fight was over a boy.
"They took off their backpacks, and they put their hair in a bun, and then that's when they said 'go' and that's when they started hitting each other," Joanna's friend and classmate Maggie Martinez, who watched the fight, told KNBC.
Martinez and other friends said they tried to stop the fight but were held back by boys who were watching and wanted it to continue.
Urbina said her sister was a happy child who liked to sing, dance and watch soap operas and loved having her hair curled. She had asked her parents to take the whole family to an amusement park to celebrate her birthday.
Joanna also helped Urbina care for her infant son and would get up in the middle of the night to fix him his bottle, Urbina recalled.
"She was so young for this to happen," Urbina said. "She was so happy and so many people loved her."
Fights involving young children, including girls, are increasing nationally, in part because of the wired world children now live in, said Travis Brown, a national expert on bullying and school violence.
Children used to have a disagreement at school and would have a night or a weekend to cool down, but social media and text messaging mean students can continue their dispute 24 hours a day, he said.
Social media sites also allow other students to weigh in and amplify the pressure to settle things in a public way, said Brown, who runs the website
"There was a time when a kid had a way to escape the things at school, but now there's no escape," he said. "That stuff just escalates to a point where it gets out of hand. This is an everyday occurrence."
Associated Press writers Robert Jablon, Alicia Chang and Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Related articles

Islamic culture in a non-Muslim state

Opinion | Columnists

A Saudi cleric contends that what Americans practise are religious principles that are ignored in his own country
  • By Tariq A. Al Maeena, Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 00:00 February 26, 2012

Islamic culture in a non-Muslim state
  • Image Credit: Illustration: Luis Vazquez/Gulf News
This is a true story that revolves around a Saudi student who went to the United States to work on his MBA. He was accompanied by his wife and two children, a daughter aged eight and a son who was six years old. The family initially settled in Richmond, Virginia not far from where the husband had to pursue his studies.
It was not long after that the husband's abusive nature towards his wife began to manifest itself. Initially it was verbal abuse, but it wasn't long before it turned to physical assault. On more than one occasion it caused bodily harm.
The wife's cry for help during such times would invariably draw the attention of their Saudi neighbours, who would try to intervene and play the role of peacemakers, appealing to the husband to refrain from such violence towards his wife.
After completing one semester at his present institution and to avoid what he felt was the bothersome meddling of his Saudi neighbours in his private affairs, the husband then moved his family to an isolated house in a suburb in a city in Ohio where he had enrolled in another university for the remainder of the term. The change in location however did not provide any relief to his forlorn wife.
The verbal abuse and the physical battering continued, only this time there weren't any sympathetic neighbours around. After one such incident where he had left her in pain, she called her father and brothers in Saudi Arabia, only to be told that she had to sort this out with her husband, and that a wife had to put up with her fate, whatever it was. Alone and desperate, it was then that she mustered up enough courage to call the local police.
Within minutes, five police patrol cars were around the house. After the cops were satisfied that this was indeed a case of domestic violence and the husband was an unrestrained abuser, they decided to take him into custody. They also moved the wife and children to a nearby hotel where they would not be isolated.
As the wife could not drive and had no means to sustain herself, the next day, the police arranged for one of the patrol cars to take the children to school and back. They even arranged with the social welfare services to provide food, some spending money and other necessities for the family while the husband was being held for questioning.
The Saudi mission in Washington soon arranged for the bail of the student who was ordered by the police to stay away from his wife and children until the judge had made his ruling. The wife was advised to appoint an attorney to represent her interests. When she found out it would cost over $6,000 (Dh22,020), she simply broke down. She had no money, her family back home was unsympathetic to her requests for help, and she did not want to lose her children.
Divorce granted
Two attorneys who happened to be in the building upon hearing of her plight volunteered to fight her case. The trial affirmed her allegations of abuse and the judge granted her request for a divorce from her husband and full custody of her children.
The social services soon moved the family to a small house in a pleasant neighbourhood. Her children were exempt from paying tuition fees. Soon after that, helping hands arranged a job for her that paid her $3,000 per month, enough to sustain herself and her two children. Based on her request, her visa was then changed to immigrant status to enable her to obtain US citizenship if she so pleased.
Saudi cleric Ayedh Al Garni, once a hardliner now turned reformist, had sometime back written a piece titled I wish I was American on the plight of this particular Saudi woman caught in an abusive marriage and far away from home. He contends that what the Americans practise are the principles of Islam that somehow we choose to ignore in our own country.
In his piece, he expresses surprise that the codes and ethics ingrained in their laws are so similar to the doctrines of Islam. He refers to the many cases in Saudi Arabia involving domestic violence that are so often ignored by families or social services and the plight of abused women is swept under carpet or dusted away, contrary to what is practised in that non-Islamic society.
Some 1,400 years ago, Omar Bin Al Khattab, the second of the four khalifas (Caliphs) of Islam upon hearing of domestic abuse by a husband went with his sword to the culprit's house and rescued the hapless woman, threatening the husband to straighten up his ways or else! In a land that gave birth to Islam, one wonders where such people are today. And are such noble deeds only to be found in America?
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Waging peace not war in Somalia

Opinion | Columnists

With the backing of the people and global community, this year will witness progress towards a more stable nation
  • By Augustin P. Mahiga, Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 00:00 February 27, 2012
Waging peace not war in Somalia
  • Image Credit: Illustration: Nino Jose Heredia/©Gulf News
An important high-level conference on Somalia in London on February 23, sponsored by the British government and attended by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, presented an unprecedented opportunity to take stock of — and reinvigorate — the international community's engagement in Somalia. These are momentous days in the Horn of Africa.
In early December 2011, Ban travelled to Somalia and announced that the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) would move its headquarters to Mogadishu. There was no shortage of doubters, but I am pleased to say that my office has now relocated from Nairobi, and for the first time since 1995 a Special Representative of the Secretary-General is based in the Somali capital.
This encouraging sign caps a year of remarkable progress and transition in the Somali peace process. Continuing attacks by Al Shabab, as well as piracy and kidnappings, may dominate the international news, but for the first time in many years, Somalis have a real reason to hope for a better future — that is, if the international community and the Somali authorities can capitalise on this moment of opportunity.
First of all, I could move here from Nairobi because Mogadishu is now relatively safe. After years of fighting, the brave African Union (AU) peacekeepers (known as Amisom), assisted by the armed forces of the Somali Transitional Federal Government, pushed Al Shabab out of most of the city. Unfortunately, the militants have resorted to terror tactics, and their suicide attacks have claimed many innocent lives.
This month, the UN Security Council is expected to approve an increase in Amisom's force strength. This would allow the troops to expand their areas of operation outside Mogadishu and bring soldiers from Kenya, who are battling the militants in the south of the country, under the same umbrella.
Consolidation on the security front will be critical to sustainable progress, and I call on the Security Council to approve the requested increase and give the AU forces the resources they need to finish the job that they have so ably started.
In September 2011, the Somali authorities adopted a "roadmap for ending the transition," which commits the Transitional Federal Government to a series of concrete tasks and fixed benchmarks to be accomplished by the end of August 2012. The roadmap focuses on security, constitutional reform, reconciliation, and good governance, and its implementation will be critical in moving forward in a transparent and inclusive manner.
Probably the most important task is to finalise the draft constitution by May 2012 in consultation with all Somali stakeholders, and to adopt it provisionally through a Constituent Assembly until conditions permit a referendum. The other main task will be to select a new parliament, which will then choose the new leadership. Somalia deserves and requires a representative government.
Sustained relief
I hope that my presence in Mogadishu will also encourage more members of the international community to re-establish a full-time presence here. The complete engagement of international and regional actors and donors will remain a central component of progress for the foreseeable future.
Being permanently based here allows us to be closer to all of the stakeholders — the Transitional Federal Institutions and other administrations, NGOs and other civil-society groups, business leaders, journalists, and the Somali people in general.
As a result, it will be much easier to communicate, exchange ideas, and take important decisions quickly during this crucial period. I saw great interest in Somalia at the African Union's recent summit in Addis Ababa, and at a meeting in Djibouti of more than 40 governments and regional groupings that belong to the International Contact Group on Somalia. The region is engaged and behind our efforts.
Of course, after two decades of conflict, Somalia's problems will not be solved overnight. There are still hundreds of thousands of people affected by the drought and famine who require urgent and sustained help, and we must work to prevent such a disaster from recurring. The insurgents continue their efforts to undermine the peace process, and political wrangling and discord threaten to paralyse the fragile institutions of governance.
I truly believe that this time, with the backing of the Somali people and the global community's engagement and political will to see the process through, this year will witness real progress towards a more stable and prosperous future for the country.
The world is watching, and we will need the expanded participation and contributions of all stakeholders if we are to capitalise on this hard-earned moment of opportunity.
Augustin P. Mahiga is the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia.

HORN: Poor rains again this season?*

humanitarian news and analysis

a service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Families queue for food at a feeding point in Mogadishu last year
JOHANNESBURG, 10 February 2012 (IRIN) - The climatic conditions linked to the drought in the Horn in 2011 have persisted, and some early warning officials say the aid community should brace themselves for a possible re-run of last year's food crisis.

However, in their forecast, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says they expect the impact of the La Niña to wane over March to May 2012, which is the major rainfall period for pastoral and agricultural areas of northern Kenya, southern Ethiopia, and most of Somalia, accounting for 50 - 60 percent of annual rainfall.

“That is the official line, but the latest modeling suggests that the conditions seem quite similar to 2011,” said an early warning official. “The message out there is to be prepared to respond before it is too late.”

La Niña occurs when the surface of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean - the world’s largest body of water - cools, and has a climatic impact in other regions of the world.

According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), recent analysis has also identified a relationship between sea surface temperature and rainfall in the western Pacific, and rainfall in East Africa.

“The western Pacific is currently exhibiting a sea surface temperature and rainfall pattern which is similar to patterns experienced during the drought years of 1984, 2000, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2011. This analysis suggests that if these conditions persist, eastern Kenya, southern Somalia, and southeastern Ethiopia may experience dry conditions," FEWS Net said in its latest report.

But the current La Niña is “relatively weaker” than the one recorded in 2011, said Rupa Kumar Kolli, chief of the World Climate Applications and Services Division at WMO.

He noted that the WMO forecast was a global outlook, and various local factors would come into play when looking at the event’s impact regionally. “For instance conditions [temperature and rainfall patterns] in the Indian Ocean would be a factor that would influence rainfall patterns in the Horn.”

The Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum, which monitors such local conditions, is meeting from 27 to 29 February in Rwanda and will provide greater forecast clarity, said both Kolli and FEWS NET.


* This article was amended on 13 and 14 February Theme (s): Aid Policy, Early Warning, East African Food Crisis, Food Security,
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

SOMALIA: Military emphasis at conference “puts more civilians at risk”

humanitarian news and analysis

a service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Somalia needs more than a military solution
LONDON, 24 February 2012 (IRIN) - The London Conference on Somalia ended with a seven-point plan aimed at boosting humanitarian aid and support for African Union troops, and tougher action on piracy, but “fell short on the measures required to address the risks faced by civilians”, said Amnesty International.

“The recent surge in military operations increases civilians’ vulnerability to attacks and displacement, and brings more arms into a country already awash with weapons,” said Benedicte Goderiaux, Amnesty International’s Somalia researcher.

“This is a lethal mix that could fuel further human rights abuses. At this conference we hoped to see more efforts to improve the safety of the Somali population.”

Delegates to the 23 February conference included UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the African Union and Arab League and regional presidents, a small Somali team including the president, prime minister and speaker of the Transitional Federal Government – as well as new players, such as Qatar and Turkey.

One speaker after another urged Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG)  to sort out the political situation, and quickly. Clinton said: “Time is of the essence and I want to be clear, the international community will not support an extension of the TFG's mandate beyond the date set in the roadmap, 20 August...  It is time – past time – to buckle down and do the work that will bring stability to Somalia for the first time in many people’s lives... Attempts to obstruct progress and maintain the broken status quo will not be tolerated.”

Turkey is now very active in Somalia, and its foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, urged his colleagues to be less fearful. “We have to be visible and present on the ground. We cannot have conferences distant from Somalia. All of us, we have to be present there... And here we call on all participant countries to open embassies. This is psychologically very important to give the impression that things will be getting normalized in Somalia.”

Talking to Al-Shabab?

The Qatari minister, Dr Khalid bin Mohammed al Attiyah, implicitly called for Al-Shabab to be part of the process of boosting confidence and inclusion among all Somali parties. “The exclusion of any party at this stage will disrupt these efforts,” he said, “and render any talk about security and stability unrealistic and inconsistent with the realities on the ground in Somalia.”

But Clinton “adamantly opposed” any engagement with Al-Shabab, although there were signs that not all America's European partners would be as absolute. Italy's foreign minister, Giuliomaria Terzi, pointed out that the insurgents still controlled more than a third of Somalia and added, “Their capacity to control that territory does not lie solely in coercion.”

The main emphasis of the meeting, however, was on military solutions, worrying for humanitarian agencies trying to work on both sides of the lines in the south and centre of the country. TFG Prime Minister, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, endorsed the idea of targeted air strikes on those he described as part of Al-Qaeda.

AMISOM mandate

There was a general welcome for the Security Council resolution extending the mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), with its promise of more stable funding, extra equipment and more troops. The Kenyans already operating in Somalia (although not their Ethiopian colleagues) will now be “rehatted” as part of the AMISOM forces.

President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia both made much of their troops' successes in recent days, the capture of Baidoa and the extension of what they see as liberated areas in the south. The host of the meeting, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, announced the creation of a Stability Fund for these areas now on the transitional government side of the lines, to which Britain, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and the United Arab Emirates would contribute.

“This is absolutely vital,” said Cameron, “for those areas which have been freed of Al-Shabab control, to help people build safer, better governed areas, and show those people in the areas still held by Al-Shabab that there is a better alternative.”

Help for refugees

These areas are also being eyed by Kenya, which is chafing under the burden of hosting the vast Dadaab refugee camp near its eastern border with Somalia. Kibaki said: “Kenya expects this conference to map out firm and durable solutions, including the return of these populations to their home country...  The humanitarian actors should now take advantage of the areas secured from Al-Shabab to settle these populations. This is a matter of utmost urgency, as Kenya can no longer continue carrying the burden occasioned by this situation.”

However, Rahma Ahmed, coordinator of the Somali Relief and Development Forum, told IRIN: “We believe that neither the sharp deterioration in the security situation in Dadaab, nor the changing, but unstable situation within Somalia – including areas identified by the government of Kenya for repatriation – are conditions which might trigger a repatriation programme which would comply with international refugee and human rights law.”

Britain will give three-year support packages to help with the refugees – more than US$56 million to Kenya and more than $23 million to Ethiopia. A spokesman for Britain’s Department for International Development told IRIN this was not intended as money for repatriation; it was meant to be spent in the refugee camps, where it was hoped that it would improve conditions.


Theme (s): Aid Policy, Economy, Governance, Security,
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

SOMALIA: Could London Conference mark a turning point on road to peace?

humanitarian news and analysis

a service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague at a consultation on Somalia, Chatham House, London

LONDON/NAIROBI, 21 February 2012 (IRIN) -
World attention is on the war-torn Horn of Africa nation once more, with analysts saying the London Conference on 23 February could mark a turning point in the country's quest for peace and stability.

A delegation from the self-declared autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland is expected to attend the conference, hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, together with heads of state, the UN and Arab League.

Al-Shabab is not invited, but countries such as Turkey and Qatar, which have urged engagement with the militia, will be there.

Regional analyst Nuradin Dirie, once a presidential candidate in Puntland, says "success" for this meeting would be the achievement of a better international coordination of help and support for Somalia.

"We also need a better focus on the international engagement in Somalia, not just seeing it through the eyes of security, but through reconciliation and strengthening what is already succeeding in Somalia. But it all depends on how Somali leaders will respond to this opportunity."

Rashid Abdi, an independent Horn of Africa analyst, told IRIN, "[Somalis are by and large] wary of foreign-led peace initiatives. The current scepticism about London on the Somali streets is understandable considering past failures. However, there is hope too that London can be different and must be different. That is the only way to restore Somali faith in the internationally led peacemaking and state-building processes."


The UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has called the conference a "moment of opportunity". He recently told a gathering of Somalis living in the UK there were "compelling reasons why the time was right for a major push": the success of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in taking control of Mogadishu, the pressure exerted on Al-Shabab, the progress against piracy and the fact that the mandate of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was due to end soon.

''Somalis are by and large wary of foreign-led peace initiatives. The current scepticism about London on the Somali streets is understandable considering past failures. However, there is hope too that London can be different and must be different''
"The current transitional institutions in Mogadishu run out in August. After seven years of minimal progress, they must not be extended. The Somali political process must become broader and more representative," Hague said.

The agreement signed in Garowe, Puntland, on 18 February means there is a now a proposed framework for what could succeed the TFG.

The deal foresees a role for the semi-autonomous Somali regions, something likely to be welcomed in London, where preliminary meetings have emphasized the need to build on the successes achieved by these quasi-states.

Piracy and Al-Shabab

One of the suggested ways to use these regional islands of relative stability is to encourage them to become more involved in the battle against piracy.

Participants will consider plans for internationally supported special courts to try pirates in Mauritius and the Seychelles and special prisons in Puntland and Somaliland where they will serve their sentences.

The meeting takes place against the background of a new offensive against Al-Shabab in the south of the country. People who took part in preliminary meetings say Britain hopes to persuade the UN Security Council to agree to an increase in AMISOM troop numbers, which would allow the Kenyan soldiers already in Somalia to be join them, with new contingents from Djibouti and Sierra Leone. Along with that would go pledges of more financial support, to put AMISOM funding on a more sustainable basis.


The various initiatives on the table will cost money, but this is not a pledging conference, despite the Somali Prime Minister's optimistic call for a "Marshall Plan", with a trust fund and a complete reconstruction programme.

Nor is it primarily about humanitarian funding, although there will be a side-event about these issues. But NGOs will not be involved.

This distancing of the humanitarian issues is a relief to those organizations struggling to work on both sides of the lines, especially since Al-Shabab has made its hostility towards the London Conference very clear. A representative of one such group told IRIN it had been worried about being co-opted into the political- and security-based agenda of the meeting.

Roger Middleton, who leads Somali policy for Oxfam, told IRIN there were still huge needs in Somalia, and it was important that the international community recognized that and did not do anything to compromise it.

"There are some things we are very clear about. We are not calling for the international community to negotiate on our behalf in terms of access. We are not calling for military support for our humanitarian actions. It's very important that we continue to operate, as we do operate at the moment, as impartial actors, neutral to any side in the conflict, and deliver aid to the people who need it, when they need it and where they need it."

eb/ah/mw Theme (s): Aid Policy, Conflict, Governance, Security,
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Seychelles And Somaliland Taking Steps Towards Prisoner Transfers


London-Seychelles President James Michel and President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo of the Republic of Somaliland have discussed, in a meeting in London today, the transfer of convicted Somali pirates currently in prison in Seychelles, to Somaliland to serve their sentences.
The meeting was attended by the British Minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham, Seychelles Minister Home Affairs, Environment, Transport and Energy, Joel Morgan, Seychelles Minister for Foreign Affairs ,Jean-Paul Adam, and the British High Commissioner to Seychelles, Matthew Forbes, the Somaliland Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Mohamed Andillahi Omar, as well as the UNODC Counter-Piracy Programme Coordinator Alan Cole.
The two leaders signed a joint statement to recognize their joint concern about the serious impact piracy has on the region and on international security, and agreed that it is vital to ensure pirates are brought to justice.
President Silanyo confirmed that both the Council of Ministers and Somaliland Parliament had now approved and passed the piracy and prisoner transfer legislation to allow the transfer of convicted pirates.
“This commitment between the Seychelles and Somaliland represents an important step forward in the development of a sustainable regional justice mechanism, that will see suspected pirates apprehended by naval forces at sea, prosecuted by regional states, and if convicted, imprisoned in the region,” said the statement from the two leaders.
President Michel and President Silanyo have also committed to securing the first transfer of 19 convicted pirates from Seychelles to Somaliland by the end of March 2012, in accordance with a Memorandum of Understanding agreed between the Republic of Somaliland and the Government of Seychelles, and based on Somaliland’s prison capacity in dealing with pirate transfers.
“ Somaliland is an important partner in the fight against piracy as it remains a pirate-free area of stability. We commend the Somaliland government for achieving this stability and for its efforts to share the burden of incarcerating the pirates,” said President Michel following the meeting.

Private firm flouts UN embargo in Somalia


Eight months after SA-linked private military company Saracen International was fingered in a UN Security Council as the “most egregious threat” to peace and security in the failed state of Somalia, Saracen continues to run and train a private army in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
Saracen, one of a cluster of shadowy private military contractors born from the ashes of the SA/British mercenary outfit Executive Outcomes, after nearly 18 months of military activity in the region, has yet to secure permission to operate as a security provider in a region so volatile Somalia has not had a functioning central government for upwards of 20 years.
Tlali Tlali, the spokesman for the National Conventional Arms Control Committee, confirmed that neither the SA arm of the Saracen operation, nor any of the individuals associated with the Somali adventure had applied for accreditation as legitimate security contractors.
UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) co-ordinator Matthew Bryden confirmed the company had failed to seek or secure authorisation from the international authority to operate as a private military contractor in Somalia after being fingered in the Monitoring Group’s June 2011 report.
We understand that the UN is in possession of compelling evidence that Saracen has continued with military training and deployment in defiance of the UN’s general arms embargo. The continuing violations of UN Resolutions 1973 and 1976 are expected to be addressed in detail in the SEMG’s forthcoming annual report at midyear.
Saracen’s operation in Somalia is headed by Executive Outcomes stalwart and – until the mercenary outfit was disbanded – holding company director, Lafras Luitingh. Luitingh is also a director of Australian African Global Investments (AAGI) the company primarily involved in logistical supply and procurement for the operation.
The Saracen operation, funded by anonymous donors in the United Arab Emirates, has also been linked to US private military contractor Erik Dean Prince, formerly head of the notorious Blackwater, now operating out of Abu Dhabi as Xe Services. A third shadowy connection uncovered in respect of the Saracen programme is to former Mogadishu CIA bureau chief Michael Shanklin.
Originally contracted under the auspices of Somalia’s fragile Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to train up an anti-piracy task force, and to take care of presidential security, Saracen has since early 2011 been exclusively contracted to the administration of Abdurahman Farole, “president” in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, and based near the Puntland port of Bossaso.
The transfer of base and allegiance followed the cancellation of the TFG contract in the wake of allegations of violations of the UN arms embargo in February 2010.
Shortly before the TFG deal was cancelled, a flight chartered by Saracen was grounded by the authorities in Somaliland – another of the semi-autonomous regions that make up the failed Somali state – and an unauthorised cargo of combat uniforms, military webbing and other materiel impounded. The cargo – enough to equip more than 500 soldiers- was vaguely detailed in the flight manifest as “safari equipment”.
At the present time, Saracen controls, on behalf of Farole, what is estimated to be the largest military presence in Somali territory with the exception of the nearly 20 000 strong Amisom peacekeeping force.
Photographs in the possession of Independent Newspapers show that its troops are equipped with state of the art hand-held light machine guns, as well as heavier machine guns mounted on turrets fitted in armoured vehicles and AK47 assault rifles.
Earlier, as highlighted in the SEMG report, Saracen’s trainers complained that weapons already available from Puntland’s armouries were inadequate, and proposed that new weapons be accessed by “other channels”.
Warned by the UN they would be closely monitored and that such imports would be in flagrant violation of the general arms embargo enforced under UN Security Council Resolutions 1973 and 1976, Saracen apparently backed down, saying they would rely on what the Farole administration could legitimately access on Somali markets.
However, sources close to the UN in Somalia told Independent Newspapers that while the UN mission had not been in a position to scrutinise all deliveries, many of the weapons in the possession of the Farole forces were not available on internal markets in Somalia.
After being fingered for “egregious violation of the arms embargo” and “representing a threat to peace and security in Somalia” in June 2011, Saracen undertook to suspend all operations, but said it would maintain a presence to secure equipment already inside Somali territory and to perform humanitarian functions like building clinics and delivering famine relief in rural areas.
However, Independent Newspapers investigations have revealed that Saracen has routinely exceeded its avowed brief, and appears to have been pursuing different and shadowy agendas.
At present the Saracen base outside Bassaso has capacity for an estimated 1 500 soldiers – three times the number of soldiers trained by the time Saracen agreed to suspend operations.
Moreover, in the course of the past year, according to sources close to the UN operation, Saracen is known to have brought 15 000 tons of materiel into Puntland in defiance of the UN arms embargo, and without the UN being in a position to execute inspections.
Other intelligence in the possession of Independent Newspapers indicates that in the second half of 2011, the Puntland port was closed off to normal control mechanisms for a period of 10 days while Saracen materiel was unloaded. It remains unclear exactly what the cargoes were.
Meanwhile, in the current frame, Saracen has deployed forces to a military command centre at Qow in the Puntland hinterland, according to sources on the ground. There is also evidence that Saracen is operating at least four helicopters in Puntland – after UN monitors blocked the unloading of two Alouettes on a vessel linked to Saracen and its shadowy associates in the early part of 2011. In addition the operation is suspected to have access to at least six ocean-going vessels as well as several inflatable attack vessels.
Funded to the tune of some $50 million (R380m) a year for an initial period of three years – the figure excludes the cost of military hardware – the avowed purpose of the Saracen operation was to train up an-anti piracy force on behalf of the Puntland administration. However, even in the June 2011 SEMG report the concern is expressed that “there were early indications that the Puntland authorities may have had alternate objectives in mind for the force”.
Some of those “alternate objectives” could be highlighted in a letter dated 6 December 2010 and addressed to the UN by the “president” of the Galmudug region of fractured Somalia. Here reference is made to a “massacre” of “innocent nomads” carried out by Puntland security forces explicitly identified as having been armed and trained by Saracen. In one of a series of actions conducted by troops in armoured vehicles equipped with heavy weapons, the Galmudug leader says 35 people were killed, and 46 wounded, many of the casualties inflicted on women and children.
While the direct involvement of Saracen in the incidents referred to has been questioned, sources close to the UN monitoring group said there were indications that Saracen could be equipping and advising militias loyal to Farole in ongoing civil conflict with Bedouin clans in the Puntland domain.
Especially targetedare clans with an allegiance to the militant religious leader Sheikh Mohamed Said Atom – who has emerged as one of the major targets of US interventions in Somalia.
Avowedly linked with the militant Al Shabaab, Atom, as well as other clan leaderships in the area are also highly resistant to the exploitation of mineral resources in their territory.
Ironically, little activity is on record or has been alleged involving anti-piracy actions on the part of Saracen.
Meanwhile the stakes have risen higher in troubled Puntland. With a concerns growing that Farole intends to secede from the fragile Somali federation, drilling has begun on two oil concessions in the territory held by Canadianmining company Africa Oil. With huge reserves already identified – and initial surveys indicating even more extensive offshore resources, Puntland is poised to become a major player in the horn of Africa.
Against this backdrop, intelligence sources indicated that Saracen’s operatives, backed by Mohamed Farole – son of and designated advisor to the president – have sought to insert themselves into an oil security operation that to date has operated with UN accreditation and in co-operation with the international authorities.
This would give Saracen a foothold in the resources-for-arms trade that characterised Executive Outcomes’ military adventures in Angola and Sierra Leone among other troublespots in the 1990s.
Contacted for comment, Luitingh said he could not speak at that moment and failed to answer calls later.
Source:The Independent

In Somalia, children are taken out of School to Become Soldiers

26/02/2012 - Reports are surfacing that Al Shabaab is taking Somali children out of schools to be used as soldiers and human shields.
According to a recent report issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW), entitled "No Place for Children," outlines how, while the use of child soldiers is not new in Somalia, the scale and violent nature of these abductions has reached unprecedented levels.

The locations in which abductions take place have expanded as well, as they are increasingly including schools and playgrounds.

A HRW researcher who worked on the report claimed that "Over the course of the last two years, Al Shabaab has increasingly been forcibly abducting children — not only from their homes, but also from their schools and playing fields. The majority of children being forced to join Al Shabaab are between 14 and 17 years old, but some are as young as 10."

Most children who are are captured spend time in a 'training camp,' where they are subjected to harsh domestic work, taught how to use weapons, and witness murders and brutal assaults as a way to desensitize them for their use as soldiers.

Somali youths are targeted for purposes that are not limited to fighting, especially for girls.  Forced marriage and rape are now commonplace for captured children.

Most of the information from the report has been compiled by over 164 interviews with young Somalis — including 21 who had escaped from Al Shabaab forces.

Islamic extremists have targeted schools for a myriad of purposes other than recruitment. The reported mentions that soldiers have used students and teachers as "human shields" against artillery fire from Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and African Union (AMISOM) forces.

Because schools have become such visible targets, many have shut down. Children and teachers who have not fled often fear attending school, and those that attend are no longer receiving an adequate education.

Human Rights Watch criticized the TFG using child soldiers themselves in response to Al Shabaab.

The report also highlights that the emphasis on the treatment of captured child soldiers needs to be shifted from detention and punishment to rehabilitation and protection.

In response to the allegations, Al-Shabaab has brushed aside the accusations from Human Rights Watch, saying that Islam considers people to be adults from the age of 15.

Islamic scholars consider a boy becomes a man at 15, or even younger if signs of puberty appear before then.

Human Rights Watch said this week that children as young as 10 are increasingly targeted by Al-Shabaab targets to replenish its ranks.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Trafficking in Mozambique: 'Every minute was the worst'

The CNN Freedom Project
February 20th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

By Brent Swails, CNN
The mansion sits in the heart of Maputo, Mozambique. From the street it looks abandoned. Its walls are crumbling, the windows are broken and overgrown shrubs and trees hide the once grand entrance.
But inside there are signs that this place is still a home. The ceiling is black from cooking fires. In the bedrooms, mattresses line the floors and pages torn from magazines decorate the walls.
Local anti-trafficking activist Katie Magill often visits the mansion and other squatter housing in the city. She says its residents are at an age where they idolize the singers and actresses pictured on the pages. But they are much too young for the work they’re forced to do every night.
Many here say that Mozambique’s label of “the land of prawns and prostitutes” is well deserved. Prawns dominate trade by day, and at night, it’s Mozambique’s girls that are for sale.
Early last year police identified a network that trafficked up to 40 women and girls each month through Mozambique’s border with South Africa. They were allegedly being sold for $1,000 (US).
Inside Mozambique’s borders, buying girls for the trade can cost as little as $2 and the victims often know the perpetrators.
Ofelia says she was sold into prostitution at age 12. Four years ago, she escaped and found safety in Magill’s organization, Project Purpose. “I always had hope I could leave,” Ofelia said. “I feel good knowing that you can actually do it.”

Another former victim, Tachina, says she lost hope when she was trafficked for sex at the age of 15. “They’d do horrible things to you and then not give you money. Every minute was the worst. Only, when you’re in that situation, you can’t always see that,” she said.
The U.S. State Department’s annual trafficking in persons report notes an improvement in the Mozambique’s government’s efforts to end the trade. There have been several successful prosecutions since an anti-trafficking law was enacted in 2008. But enforcement remains difficult in this resource-strapped country.
A unit recently set up to deal with trafficking has only seven members charged with policing the entire country. Mozambique also lacks a national plan and a coordinating body. CNN requests for an interview with police went unanswered.
For now the fight against traffickers can’t do without people like Magill. Her organization rehabilitates young victims, many of them mothers, providing shelter for their children.
But she says it’s the ones she wasn’t able to bring to her safe house that continue to haunt her. “I cry now just thinking about the people who should have been in these buildings, the kids who should have a chance to live like that.”
Bras help former slaves
Post by: