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Archive for January 30th, 2009

Whoever is elected Somali president will face hardships

Posted by African Press International on January 30, 2009

SOMALIA: Leading contenders for presidency

Photo: Ahmed Yusuf Mohamed/IRIN
Whoever wins the presidency faces the daunting task of rebuilding Somalia after 18 years of war (file photo)

NAIROBI, 29 January 2009 (IRIN) – Somalia’s parliament, meeting in Djibouti, is expected to elect a new president on 30 January, to replace Abdullahi Yusuf, who resigned at the end of December 2008 after prolonged differences with the prime minister.

Fourteen candidates are vying for the position but observers say two stand out. However, whoever takes over faces the daunting task of trying to rebuild a nation that has been at war for nearly 18 years, leaving more than one million displaced and up to 3.5 million people needing aid. Not only does the winner inherit a broken country but also the task of bringing in those in opposition that are not involved in the current talks, including the militant Al-Shabab group.

Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed
In his late 40s, he is the leader of a faction of the Eritrea-based Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS). He is also the former chairman of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which was ousted in late 2006 by Ethiopian-backed Somali troops. He is considered a relative moderate and led his group into negotiations with the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

Ahmed started out as a former lieutenant of faction leader Mohamed Dheere until they fell out in 2003. In the same year, he helped to set up the SiSi neighbourhood Islamic court to combat rampant crime and banditry in the poor neighbourhoods of north Mogadishu. He comes from a long line of religious leaders. He is from the Abgal sub-clan of the Hawiye clan.

After falling out with the secular warlord controlling the town, Ahmed became a secondary school teacher in Mogadishu, where a gang abducted one of his 12-year-old students. The captors demanded a ransom from the boy’s family – a moment Ahmed called a turning point. In 2004, he became chairman of the group, now made up of 11 courts and known as the UIC.

Photo: Hassan Ahmed/IRIN
Nur Hassan Hussein, better known as “Nur Ade”, one of the leading contenders for the presidency (file photo)

Nur Hassan Hussein
In his 70s and popularly known as Nur Ade, he was appointed prime minister in October 2008 by Yusuf. Hussein replaced Ali Mohamed Gedi, who was blamed for contributing to the displacement of hundreds of thousands from Mogadishu.

He is considered a pragmatist and cautious. He is credited with overseeing the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops.

Hussein is a lawyer by training and a former police colonel, who, until his appointment, had been secretary-general of the Somali Red Crescent Society since 1991. Like his predecessor, Hussein is a member of the Abgal sub-clan of the Hawiye clan, which is dominant in Mogadishu and the surrounding areas.

Other candidates, considered long shots, however, include Maj-Gen Maslah Mohamed Siad, the son of late President Siad Barre, and former Prime Minister Ali Khalif Glayr, who is currently teaching at a university in the United States.


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Food: There is a vital priority for countries which have immediate needs for the next planting season, such as Kenya.”

Posted by African Press International on January 30, 2009

GLOBAL: Talks and more talks about food

Photo: AS Naing/IRIN
Countries are in search of long-term solutions to food insecurity

JOHANNESBURG, 29 January 2009 (IRIN) – The two-day UN meeting in Madrid, Spain, to review global plans to deal with the food price crisis began amid claims of overlapping programmes and competition for resources between the UN agencies, and talk of setting up a global partnership to improve agriculture and food security.

Ahead of the meeting, UK-based aid agency Oxfam and the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group), which works with civil society organisations, had raised concerns over UN agencies’ call for funds in an allegedly uncoordinated manner and with “noticeable overlaps”.

One of the overlaps, Oxfam said, was the World Bank’s Global Food Response Programme, set up to respond to high food prices and which finances the UN World Food Programme’s (WFP) food aid and agricultural inputs; and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Initiative on Soaring Food Prices, centred on providing farming inputs. Both had independently requested donor support.

Fred Mousseau, a policy advisor to Oxfam, said after the meeting, “There was a lot of emphasis on a UN-centred approach to tackling the crisis and a unified UN, which was reassuring.”

David Nabarro, coordinator of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Task Force (HLTF) on Global Food Security, commented: “The most serious challenge is not duplication, but a shortage of resources.” The HLTF members are heads of UN specialised agencies, funds and programmes, Bretton Woods institutions and relevant parts of the UN Secretariat, who have “improved policy and programme coordination, particularly at national level”.

''The immediate priority was to ensure that the resources which are available for countries are used as efficiently as possible, and are easily available for countries facing food security challenges''

Nabarro noted that in most countries a framework for action on food security had been agreed to by government and donors, and “while improvements can be made, [it] has for the most part worked well”.

The immediate priority, he said, was “to ensure that the resources which are available for countries are used as efficiently as possible, and are easily available for countries facing food security challenges. There is a vital priority for countries which have immediate needs for the next planting season, such as Kenya.”

Global partnership

Two proposals were up for discussion as participants debated the best architecture for providing long-term solutions to the food price crisis: the HLTF proposed a global partnership that would include UN agencies, governments, NGOs and the private sector; the FAO suggested that the UN committee on World Food Security be expanded. Opinion remained divided and no decision was taken.

Agreement was reached on “the importance of an inclusive and broad process of consultation on options leading to the establishment of a Global Partnership for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition,” said a communiqu on the meeting’s website.

“There was a lot of scepticism about the idea, as there [sometimes] is about the creation of new structures,” said Pat Mooney, the ETC Group’s executive director, noting that during the food crisis in the 1970s, the World Food Council had been set up in 1974 and had never really functioned until it was suspended in 1993.

Steve Jarrett, Principal advisor to the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said the global partnership would not be a “structure, but more of a broad-based alliance of UN agencies, NGOs, governments and the private sector.”

Nabarro commented, “There is no decision on the outcome – only some ideas from different countries and constituencies, and an agreement on the need to have participatory consultation as soon as possible.”

He said the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, had been asked by the African Union, the European Union and the G8 group of highly industrialised countries to facilitate consultations about options for partnerships that would generate effective responses to the food security crisis.

“In addition, FAO’s members are being consulted about a plan for an intergovernmental process on the agricultural and food security elements of a global partnership.”

Money makes the food go round

Oxfam and the medical aid NGO, Mdecins Sans Frontires, welcomed a commitment by Spain, the host country, to earmark 0.7 percent of its gross domestic product to overseas development assistance (ODA) by 2012.

Donor response at present was poor, “but it was not a pledging conference”, said Oxfam’s Mousseau. “Affected countries in Africa and Asia also need to increase their investment in agriculture.”


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African nations seeing the light in the tunnel – G7 leaders will pay attention to Africa

Posted by African Press International on January 30, 2009

G7 leaders to focus on increased assistance for African nations


World leaders support for an ambitious African aid plan in Davos thrusts development funding to the top of the Group of Seven finance ministers agenda next weekend.

Currency reform was put on the back burner after chances for a breakthrough at the London G7 meeting faded, when China told the World Economic Forum annual meeting, which concluded on Sunday, that the Asian giant is in no hurry to loosen its fixed peg to the US dollar.

That leaves economic policymakers from top industrial nations delivering progress reports on how they are implementing a three-pronged strategy to improve growth the United States raising its savings rate to cut its deficits, Europe making structural reforms to boost growth and Japan securing recovery.

“We will revisit the consensus,” German central bank president Axel Weber told Reuters when asked what the G7 will achieve on the economic policy front.

Equilibrium economy

“As long as we agree on the homework and we all agree to do it, I think we are moving toward a more equilibrium global economy,” said Weber, who attends the G7 as Bundesbank president and also sits on the European Central Banks policy council. For more than a year now, G7 policymakers have been urging China to adopt a flexible exchange-rate regime. Its yuan currency is currently pegged at a very low value of about 8.28.

Flexibility is aimed at relieving upward pressure on the euro, which has borne the brunt of dollar declines, and thus helping Europe grow faster.

This is part of a plan to rebalance the global economy, now powered mainly by a dynamic US. Speculation was rife in financial markets before the Davos meetings where business, political and financial leaders gather for five days of high-powered networking that China could signal at G7 it was ready to move to a flexible exchange-rate regime. China is attending the February 4 to 5 meeting.

But Huang Ju, Chinas vice premier for financial and banking issues, told the Davos gathering that before acting on exchange rates, China needs to make further progress on cleaning up its ailing banking system and opening up its capital markets.

“We do not have a specific time frame,” Huang said on Saturday. “To improve the exchange-rate mechanism, we have to maintain the exchange rate at a reasonably stable level.”

G7 finance ministers also want details on how the United States will cut its massive current account deficit.


At 5.6 per cent of GDP and growing, it is fuelling dollar declines. But they expect no major developments, since the Bush administration budget is not unveiled until the following week.

That leaves the British scheme to double aid to poorer states to $100 billion a year by leveraging existing budgets in capital markets as the most likely topic for G7 agreement.

It got a major boost after German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said at Davos that this was “a proposal around which the world is preparing to unite.”

Four of the European members of the G7 Italy, France, Germany and Britain are now supporting a key element of the development plan, the International Financial Facility.

US Treasury Under Secretary John Taylor also threw US backing behind a plan to lift Africa from poverty. “I think its a terrific idea,” Taylor told reporters at Davos.


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Some Kenyan ministers maybe tried at the Hague due to failure to establish a special tribunal on the Kenyan soil

Posted by African Press International on January 30, 2009

State seeks options over Waki timelines

David Ochami and Peter Opiyo

The Government suffered a blow as it missed deadlines set by the Waki Report to create a Special Tribunal to try post-election violence suspects.

And faced with the risk of having ministers and suspects tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, it was exploring options for extending the deadlines.

The Special Statute Tribunal for Kenya Bill, 2009 was blocked on technical grounds in the House, yesterday.

In a tactful understanding of the House Standing Orders, Mr Gitobu Imanyara (Imenti Central, CCU) objected to fast-tracking discussion on the Statute Bill and Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2009, denying the House a chance to debate them.

The former sought to establish the tribunal, while the latter was to anchor it in the Constitution. To beat todays deadline, the Government has no option than to speed the two Bills.

But rising on a point of order, Imanyara objected to the move, saying the House was not ready to grant leave to debate the two Bills.

Speaker Kenneth Marende referred to Standing Order No 99 and declared Imanyaras move legal, thus denying the House the opportunity to establish the court.

According to this Standing Order, a member can object to the House granting leave to speed up a Bill as long as he is supported by at least two members.

Imanyara had Mr Olago Aluoch (Kisumu Town West, ODM), Mr Charles Kilonzo (Yatta, ODM-K) and Dr Bonny Khalwale (Ikolomani, New Ford-K), among others.

Mr Marende then ruled: “Imanyara doesnt have the sympathy of the Chair because he has the numbers.”

Earlier, Justice Minister Martha Karua had moved three procedural Motions that extended yesterdays sitting and fast tracking the publication date of the Bills. House rules require that a Bill can only be debated after the lapse of 14 days since its publication. But the House can change this. And Parliament effectively did this by reducing the publication date to one day to give opportunity for the debate and passage of the two Bills.

Tabled bills

Karua only managed to table the Constitution of Kenya (Ammendment) Bill, 2007 and the Statute for the Special Tribunal at the first readings.

But Imanyara objected that the Bills go through the second and third readings in yesterdays single session. Since Parliament does not sit today, technically, the opportunity to establish the Tribunal is lost.

On Tuesday, Parliament had laid the ground for the establishment of the Tribunal by adopting the Waki Report.

It also enacted the International Crimes Bill that domesticated the Rome Statute and defined international crimes, paving way for the establishment of the tribunal.

And The Standard has established that the move to stop debate on the formation of the tribunal was mooted by backbenchers from both sides of the House in the last two days.

Several MPs told The Standard on condition of anonymity that the move was aimed at “teaching” the President a lesson for slighting Parliament over the reappointment of Kipipiri MP Amos Kimunya to the Cabinet.

“I have been told by some MPs that they are unhappy with Kibaki over the Kimunya issue. That is why they behaved that way,” a minister told us.

The MPs, who spoke after stopping debate on the two Constitution Bills, said Parliament had no confidence in Kimunya

Earlier, while delivering a ruling on Kimunyas reappointment, Mr Marende said the Motion of censure in which a no confidence vote was passed against Kimunya still stands.

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