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Archive for June 22nd, 2009

Somalia: Region must act on conflict (editorial)

Posted by African Press International on June 22, 2009

Nairobi (Kenya) The deteriorating security situation in Somalia, which last week culminated in the murder of the country’s defence minister, Omar Hashi Aden, is a matter of grave concern across East Africa.

The unfolding scenario is particularly worrying for Kenya, the region’s largest economy, because the country shares a long and porous border with its war-torn neighbour.

Threats of cross-border raids in the past two weeks by the fundamentalist Al Shabaab group have served to underline the gravity of the situation.

As a bloc and through such regional bodies as Igad, the countries of the region must lobby the international community for greater engagement with progressive forces in Somalia to stop further deterioration.

Without compromising the stance that Somalia is one country, for example, it is now prudent that global powers extend financial, logistical and military support to the nominally independent regions of Somaliland and Puntland.

Enabling these two regions to police their coastlines will, for example, have a beneficial impact on the levels of piracy.

Farther south, the global powers must work to strengthen Somalia’s fragile transitional government.

The international financial system must also stop the flow of funds to the insurgents.

Related to this, the world community must do all it can to stop the migration of jihadis to Somalia. As we have noted elsewhere in this paper, there is growing evidence that the pressure being exerted on the extremists in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan has made Somalia an attractive haven for them, with estimates now being that up to 1,000 foreign fighters are in the country.

For the sake of the entire region, this rising tide of migration should not be allowed to become a full-scale deluge.

source.The East African (Kenya)

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Somalia: Violence spirals out of control in South-Central region

Posted by African Press International on June 22, 2009

Mogadishu (Somalia) At least 20 people were killed and 60 others wounded in renewed clashes that raged in parts of Mogadishu, especially in Kaaraan district where pro-government forces and Al Shabaab insurgents battled for control of a district that has been under the control of government forces since 2007.

A Somali lawmaker, MP Mohamed Hussein Addow, was among the dead victims in heavy battles where Hizbul Islam and Al Shabaab militia attacked government-held districts including Kaaraan, Shibis, Abdiaziz and Wardhigley, where the Villa Somalia presidential palace is located.

MP Addow, who belongs to President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed’s Abgal clan, reportedly took part of the battle after insurgents got too close to his residence. His dead body and the bodies of two bodyguards lay on the ground for public view for hours, witnesses and neighbors reported.

Al Shabaab hardliners who control the southern port of Kismayo have publicly supported Thursday’s suicide bombing in the central town of Beletwein, where Security Minister Omar Hashi was among 25 dead victims.

Sheikh Hassan Yakub, spokesman for Al Shabaab group in Kismayo, told a press conference that he is “happy” to hear the Security Minister’s death. “We promise to kill anyone who commits treason,” vowed Sheikh Yakub.

Separately, Sheikh Yakub told a Sunday press conference in Kismayo that aid agencies are “working for foreign interests” and demanded that aid workers leave territory under the control of Al Shabaab guerrillas. “The aid groups support anyone who opposes Somali Islamists,” said Sheikh Yakub, while referring to Islamist factions waging war on Somalia’s U.N.-backed interim government.

Sheikh Yakub went on to threaten the Kenyan government, saying that Al Shabaab guerrillas will attack Nairobi if Kenyan troops along the border do not stop military maneuvers.

“We promise to attack Nairobi if the Kenyan government does not stop attempts to interfere in Somalia and to attack regions controlled by Mujahideen,” he added.

Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said the Kenyan government “will not stand by and watch the situation in Somalia deteriorate,” according to a Reuters article published on Friday.

The insurgency in south-central Somalia threatens to overthrow the weak interim government, as Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam hardliners vow to continue the war until the government collapses. Upwards of 18,000 civilians have been killed in the insurgency, which sparked in early 2007. Nearly 3million people in Somalia are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to U.N. estimates.

source.Garowe online (Somalia)

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Somalia: Kenya prime minister hints at military option for crisis

Posted by African Press International on June 22, 2009

Nairobi (Kenya) Prime Minister Raila Odinga Monday hinted at a military solution to the crisis in war-torn Somalia.

At a joint press conference with Somalia Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmake at his Treasury office, Mr Odinga called on the international community to consider sending “military assistance” to the war-torn nation to arrest the armed conflict.

“When I was in Geneva last week, I talked to various agencies to help Somalia deal with the problem, and to also help us to deal with the influx of refugees into Kenya. There is also need to provide military assistance to deal with the situation in Somalia,” said the PM.

But he remained non-committal on whether Kenya would send its troops to Somalia , saying the government would meet and make an announcement on the issue “soon”. “I’m not saying that we will send forces to Somalia, we are consulting and will make an announcement soon,” he added.

Mr Odinga spoke in the wake of reports that the Al Qaeda terrorist group had pitched tent in Somalia where it is fighting alongside extremists to oust the transitional government, posing a deadly threat to the stability of neighbouring countries, Kenya included.

The reports that Al-Muhajirun, a terrorist outfit linked to Al Qaeda and commanded by a Kenyan, Saleh Nabhan, had brought to Somalia some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world posed a major concern to Kenya.

Mr Odinga would not be drawn into discussing the government’s response to warnings by Al-Shabaab insurgents operating in Somalia that they would attack Kenya. Asked his take on threats to Kenya by the insurgent group, the PM responded; “Al-Shabaab is not telling us how to cope with the influx of refugees at the Dadaab camp, I’m therefore not responding officially to Al-Shabaab”.

He cited IGAD and AU resolutions that restricted nations from interfering in the internal affairs of their neighbours to explain Kenya’s reluctance to send troops to Somalia just yet.

Mr Odinga appealed to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN) and the US government to move in and save the Somalia Transitional Government from being overrun by the insurgents.

He expressed concern that the international community was yet to honour pledges to extend aid to the fledgling Somalia government, amounting to US$213 million, agreed upon during a meeting held in Brussels, Belgium recently. He warned that the consequences to Kenya would be “very grave” if Mogadishu was to fall to the insurgents, and appealed for international intervention.

Mr Odinga announced that Kenya had offered extra land for the expansion of the Dadaab refugee camp to accommodate the huge number of refugees fleeing from the war in Somalia. He said that whereas the Dadaab refugee camp used to previously host up to 250,000 refugees, the war in Somalia had meant many more refugees are trooping in by the day, forcing the Kenya government to transfer some to other camps in other parts of the country.

He said that thanks to the rise in pirates attacks in ships in the Indian Ocean, Kenya’s economy was already suffering as insurance firms raise their premiums on goods being shipped to Kenya.

He noted that the ultimate decision to end the crisis in Somalia lay with its own citizens, who must agree to compromise to achieve lasting peace.

Citing the compromise he and president Kibaki had to make to save the country from the post election violence early last year, Mr Odinga noted; “The international community can host meetings at Serena, but ultimately it is upon the people themselves to make compromises.”

source.The Nation (Kenya)

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East Africa: Al-Qaeda threat to peace in East Africa

Posted by African Press International on June 22, 2009

Nairobi (Kenya) An Al-Qaeda force fighting alongside Somali extremists against the transitional government has sent ripples through regional capitals.

Commanded by a Kenyan, the group, called Al-Muhajirun, has 180 well-trained and battle-hardened fighters, some who have seen action in Afghanistan, Pakistan and possibly Iraq.

Al-Shabaab, the Somali militant group which has threatened to annex Kenyan territory, is not itself considered a serious threat to Kenya, a ministry of Internal Security official told the Nation, “not in the conventional sense” and because its main concerns are domestic. But Al-Qaeda, whose dream is to create a Taliban-type super-state running from Mozambique to the north, has the potential to destabilise East Africa.

Al-Muhajirun has also internationalised the conflict and brought some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world to East Africa’s front door, said the official, who can not be named because of government secrecy laws.

“The extent to which Kenyans are being exposed to these kinds of terrorist things is a major concern,” said a senior police officer who asked not to be named so as to comment freely.

The emergence of a large and well-trained and armed group reflects a dynamic which could have disastrous consequences for Kenya’s future security. The group is headed by Kenyan Saleh Nabhan, an old Al-Qaeda hand, and many of its members are Kenyan, some of them young people who have been recruited, turned into radicals and sent to fight in the Somali “jihad”, said a regional conflict and peace expert, who declined to be named because of his work with the security services.

Security and defence bosses are concerned that Somalia could become East Africa’s Afghanistan, a country that attracts extremists who are trained in terrorism but who return to their own countries to set up Al-Qaeda networks. They fear that the war in Somalia will spawn a new breed of war-hardened Al-Qaeda terrorists.

The other members of Al-Muhajirun are Ugandans, Americans, Europeans and Saudis. Others are from other parts of the Middle East and Asia, said the Internal Security official, who is privy to intelligence reports. A Mr Abu Mansur al-Meriki, a US citizen, is Nabhan’s deputy in the Al-Muhajirun chain of command.

On Saturday, the Speaker of the Somali Transitional Federal Parliament, Sheikh Aden Mohamed Nur, also known as Sheikh Aden Madobe, issued an urgent appeal for Yemen, Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia to send forces in Somalia within 24 hours to fight off an invasion by Al-Qaeda jihadists and save the fledgling government.

Speaking at a press conference at Villa Somalia, the State House in Mogadishu, Sheikh Madobe said the Transitional Federal Government was fighting against “international jihadists who have come to Somalia from all the five continents of the globe”. He claimed that a “general” from Pakistan was now in Somalia and directing the Al-Qaeda. He did not name him but said he was operating out of Bakara market, the biggest trading centre in Mogadishu and around Sana’a, a strategic junction in north Mogadishu.

“This terror will pass on to the rest of the world, especially to neighbouring countries, if not confronted,” he warned.

On Thursday, suspected terrorists killed Somali National Security minister Omar Hashi Aden and 24 others. A day before, Mogadishu’s police chief was killed during a fight with insurgents.

On Sunday, Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula said the government would not respond to statements made by the insurgents. However, he assured the public that Kenya’s national and strategic interests would be protected at all costs.

Nominated MP Sheikh Mohamed Dor dismissed threats from the Al-Shabaab group and said Kenya and other regional countries had a duty to intervene in Somalia to restore peace. “Al-Shabaab should not issue threats, especially against Kenya, that has hosted a lot of Somali leaders,” he said on the phone.

Sheikh Dor warned that the escalating situation in Somalia will affect its neighbours and urged members of the African Union or Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) to move in and restore order.

Ethiopia, which fought and routed the extremists in 2006, rejected the call for armed intervention and government spokesman Bereket Simon told the Nation in Addis Ababa that Ethiopia would not deploy its armed forces in Somalia without “a clear and approved mandate by the international community”.

“Any further action from Ethiopia will be done according to the international community’s reaction,” said Mr Simon.
Mr Simon, a minister in the Ethiopian government, said helping Somalia was not the responsibility of neighbouring countries, alone but of the international community.

There has been heightened diplomatic activity in Addis Ababa, with Western diplomats reportedly trying to get Ethiopia, an influential nation in the region because of its huge military, to intervene again in Somalia. The view in Addis Ababa is that the insurgency in Somalia is largely supported by Eritrea and some Arab states. Eritrea, Ethiopia’s bitter enemy, is reported to have put thousands of troops on alert, possibly with the intention of sending them in to back up the extremists should Ethiopia respond to the call for help. Ethiopian withdrew its troops from Somalia early this year after a tough, two-year campaign.

Kenya, which has a relatively large and influential Somali population of its own, has been reluctant to play the aggressor in Somalia and might not attack unless attacked. But Kenyan security officials appeared to support the Ethiopian position that a multi-lateral, rather than unilateral approach, is the only hope for Somalia.

source.The Nation (Kenya)

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In Kenya politics it is family given priority: Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s sister Akinyi becomes a diplomat in Los Angeles

Posted by African Press International on June 22, 2009

During former president Moi’s time, there was an outcry every time a relative of a politician was appointed to high position. The opposition were angered every time that happened and they wanted Moi out. They accused him of nepotism. Now the PM himself has managed to secure his own sister a diplomatic position and yet she has no diplomatic experience. The move is a by-pass of those in the foreign affairs with the diplomatic qualifications. We are not saying this is bad. We are only asking, what does a lecturer in chemistry have in common with diplomats? Now we understand that employing relatives will never stop in Kenya and it is better it becomes accepted and those in positions be allowed to do so openly. Eating when you can should be the motto! After all it is the foreigners- the West funding most of the activities in Kenya. Raila’s hands are now tied when President Kibaki decides to move in a direction of family favours by appointing his son to any high position in Kenya. Raila will not oppose anything because Kibaki has already given his family a diplomat! (API)

By Cyrus Ombati

Prime Minister Raila Odingas sister, Dr Wenwa Akinyi, has been appointed Consulate General in Kenyan mission in Los Angeles, US.

And a former assistant minister for Internal Security Stephen Tarus has been appointed the Kenyan High Commissioner to Australia, The Standard can reveal.

Tarus, who lost his bid to be re-elected the MP for Emgwen in the last General Election was appointed by the President in changes made in selected foreign missions.

Impeccable sources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tarus appointment was made following weeks of consultation. The High Commissioner to Caniberra John Lepi Lanyasunya has been recalled to the ministry headquarters.

raila sister

The source, who wished not to be named, further revealed the Consulate General in Los Angeles, Ms Nyambura Kamau, has also been recalled to Nairobi. Akinyi is a lecturer at the department of Chemistry, University of Nairobi. Kenyan Ambassador to the US is still Peter Rateng and our source disputed claims he has been recalled.

It also emerged that the High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Joseph Muchemi, has been recalled. Mr Muchemis replacement has not been announced, but he has until the end of August to leave.

It is expected that he will hand over to his deputy, Mr Addison Chebukaka. The High Commissioner made the UK Kenyan Embassy more open during his term.

The appointment of representatives in foreign missions has been an issue for the Grand Coalition principals, as each side demanded equal representation. Insiders say there are four vacant positions in foreign missions to be filled. Among them are Vienna, Seoul and Kigali.


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