Sunday, September 30, 2012

Al-Shabab Withdraws From Kismayo

Picture of Kismayo, Somalia, taken September 28, 2012.
Gabe JoselowMohammed Yusuf

Somalia Islamists Abandon Last Stronghold

Somalia's Islamist Shebab rebels have been increasingly on the back foot in recent months.
Al-Qaeda linked Shebab rebels say they have withdrawn from the southern Somali port city of Kismayo, their last bastion in the country.

Shebab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage said the group’s military command had ordered a tactical retreat overnight on September 28-29.

Residents in the city confirmed that the Islamist fighters had moved outside city lines and that Al-Sebab's radio station, Radio Andalus, was off the air.

The news comes a day after an assault on the city by African Union force in Somalia (AMISOM).

Kismayo has been a vital lifeline for the Shebab since the AMISOM reconquered most of the capital, Mogadishu, last year and Ethiopian troops stripped them of other key cities in the east.

In places where the Shebab have abandoned fixed positions, they have switched to guerrilla tactics, including in Mogadishu.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Somalia, allies batter al Shabaab - Africa | IOL News |

iol news pic al Shabaab nu
An Al Shabaab soldier carries a rocket-propelled grenade as he patrols the streets of Dayniile district in Southern Mogadishu. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
Marka, Somalia - “Paradise lies under the shade of swords,” reads the Arabic inscription on an arch leading into the Somali port of Marka, abandoned last month by Islamist al Shabaab militants under pressure from advancing African Union peacekeepers and government troops.
The inscription, along with a white column by the beach where al Shabaab held public executions, is one of the reminders of the al Qaeda-allied rebels' four-year occupation of the coastal town, 90 km (55 miles) south of the capital Mogadishu.
A determined offensive by African Union (AMISOM) and Somali government forces has made large strides over the last year to oust al Shabaab fighters from their strongholds in south-central Somalia. On Friday, Kenyan troops attacked Kismayu, the rebels' last major bastion.
For the first time since the early 1990s, there are hopes that the Horn of Africa nation, long regarded as the ultimate 'failed state', could be nearing the last stages of a vicious circle of violence.
But while the successes against al Shabaab are welcomed by Somalia's government and its international backers, there are fears that even Kismayu's capture may not deliver a knock-out blow to the combat-hardened group. Some experts think it will redeploy and hit back with guerrilla raids and urban bombings.
Marka's residents seem generally happy that al Shabaab has gone. But they say night time grenade attacks still occur, indicating the militants, or at least their supporters, are still there. Police have not yet arrived, though masked special forces soldiers of the Somali army patrol some streets.
“The militants' strategic goal in the longer run could be very simple - to exhaust AMISOM, have it stretched,” a Western security official based in Mogadishu told Reuters.
Somalia's newly elected president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has yet to name a new prime minister and appoint top security aides, raising concerns that the country's ever feuding militias and clans could take advantage of any power vacuums.
In Marka, a picturesque port of two-storey houses with coloured shutters, the recently installed district commissioner, Ahmed Moualim Abdi, recalled how al Shabaab's presence changed the lives of the population in what was once a peaceful, carefree fishing and farming community.
“The comfortable life turned into a dog's life. Al Shabaab implemented their harsh rule of amputations, stoning to death, whipping, forcing Zakat (Islamic tax) from businesses, harvests and livestock. Social gatherings were outlawed,” said Abdi, who fled the town during the militants' occupation.
Now the narrow streets of Marka are packed with men dressed in shirts and sarongs setting up makeshift stalls, where flies buzz incessantly over fish, maize and vegetables.
Peter Omola, a colonel with the Ugandan AU contingent which secured Marka, described how his forces were warmly greeted by locals after the rebels put up minimal resistance.
“Civilians were so happy, waving and greeting,” said Omola in the courtyard of a house which he says al Shabaab had once used as a base.
Residents spoke with relief about restored freedoms.
“There's a big change in the city. When al Shabaab were here we couldn't sell what we wanted. They would arrest us all the time, we couldn't sell tobacco and cigarettes,” said Abdirashid Adam.
“We couldn't listen to music or watch television,” added Naima Mohamed, a timid girl in a headscarf.
Ali Oban, a feisty 15-year-old, complained that the rebels, who roamed the town in search of anyone who violated their austere interpretation of Wahhabi Islam, forced him to shave his head.
“When I cut my hair the way I wanted, they beat me,” he said, describing a Mohawk hairstyle he had adopted.
“I hate them,” he said.
But some locals were still too frightened to openly criticise the departed militants, apparently fearing that some could still be hiding out in the port in civilian clothes.
“If you know what they're capable of, you'd have to fear them,” said one man talking to Reuters at the beach near a lone, white column carrying the words Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest), where al Shabaab used to execute offenders.
The group was not always so unpopular. In some areas of Somalia, locals said it still enjoyed support, particularly because its members often restored a semblance of order in places racked for years by chaos and violence.
In Kismayu on Friday, some residents said supporters of the al Shabaab militants were the fighters on the battlefront against the attacking African and Somali government forces.
Kismayu's rebel defenders were expected to melt away into surrounding forests from where they could stage counter-attacks.
Marka's inhabitants said many foreign, non-Somali fighters with al Shabaab - recognisable because of their lighter skins - fled the town to escape the AMISOM assault.
“The light-skinned people were here. They had huge guns and walked with Somalis to translate for them and collect tax from the shops,” said Abu Rahman Farah, an elderly man with a cane and a henna-dyed beard.
Local al Shabaab footsoldiers opted to defect.
Fadil Ahmed Ali, 19, said he was given a salary of $30 a month when he joined al Shabaab four years ago, a payment gradually reduced to being just given food with his comrades.
As it became clear the rebels were losing, he gave up. “When I defected, I left my gun,” he told reporters at a Ugandan military base outside the town.
While the rebels' arsenal is no match for AMISOM's heavy weaponry, there are still fears the battle-tested militants could hit back with classic guerrilla tactics - grenade attacks, suicide bombs and roadside blasts.
Stretched AMISOM forces are ill-equipped to maintain a robust presence on routes that connect recently captured towns.
Some of their ageing 1970s South Africa-made Casspir armoured vehicles seem to be showing signs of wear and tear - one had a rope tied to a hook to secure its back door.
In Marka, Ugandan troops showed journalists a cache of weapons they said they found at the home of a militant who had fled. The weapons included a disassembled 14.5 mm anti-aircraft gun, AK-47 rifles and a pistol.
One-time academic and political newcomer Mohamud was overwhelmingly elected Somalia's head of state on Sept. 10 under a United Nations-backed roadmap that allowed the holding of the first presidential election in the country in 45 years.
Expectations are high that he will be able to capitalise on AMISOM's security successes against al Shabaab.
But the militants have shown he faces a very tough task: just two days into his job, suicide bombers attacked a hotel where he was giving a news conference, killing eight people. Mohamud and the visiting Kenyan foreign minister escaped unhurt.
The last bomber burst into the hotel courtyard before guards shot him dead, metres from the red carpet, in a pool of blood. - Reuters

Somalia's al Shabaab rebels pull out of Kismayu bastion -

An undated handout photograph released by Kenya's Ministry of Defence shows members of the Kenyan Defence Forces during an operation at an undisclosed location in Somalia
An undated handout photograph released by Kenya's Ministry of Defence shows members of the Kenyan Defence Forces during an operation at an undisclosed location in Somalia (HANDOUT, REUTERS / September 29, 2012)

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somalia's al Shabaab rebels retreated from the southern port of Kismayu overnight, abandoning the last major bastion of their five-year revolt to an offensive by African Union and Somali government troops.

The loss of Kismayu a day after it was attacked by Kenyan and Somali soldiers backed by air strikes is a major blow to the al Qaeda-linked rebels, weakening morale and depriving them of revenue from taxing local businesses and shipping.

"We moved out our fighters ... from Kismayu at midnight," al Shabaab spokesman, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, told Reuters on Saturday, promising to strike back. "The enemies have not yet entered the town. Let them enter Kismayu which will soon turn into a battlefield."

The Kenya Defence Force (KDF) said two regional rebel commanders, Sheikh Hassan Yakub and Sheikh Abdikarim Adow, were killed in air strikes in the city late on Friday and that another five insurgents were killed in combat. Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab's spokesman for military operations, told Reuters the rebels had suffered no losses.

Al Shabaab, which formally merged with al Qaeda in February, has pulled out of a number of urban areas including the capital, Mogadishu, in recent months under pressure from African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces and the Somali government.

The government in Mogadishu said Kismayu was now under its control and called on residents to co-operate with security agencies and AU forces in improving security.

"The Somali Armed Forces with support from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have secured the port town of Kismayu from the grip of the terror group of al Shabaab who controlled the town for nearly three years," it said in a statement.

Kenyan military spokesman Col. Cyrus Oguna declined to comment on the statement by the Somali government, saying Kenyan troops, fighting under the AMISOM banner, were yet to take control of the port facilities.

Locals confirmed the militants had pulled out under the cover of darkness but said Kenyan and Somali soldiers were still camped on the city's outskirts.

Analysts warned against prematurely assuming the rebels had disappeared, saying they must have left a few fighters behind.

"This is not an indication of al Shabaab having abandoned armed struggle and there is no evidence they are keen on surrendering. They will continue to be a great nuisance for a very long time," said Rashid Abdi, a Somalia expert and an editor with Kenya's Nation Media Group.

The insurgents, who once controlled swathes of the lawless Horn of Africa country, have turned to guerrilla tactics, harrying the weak government of newly-elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud with suicide bombings and assassinations.


There were reports of looting in some areas of the city.

"Al Shabaab has not perished, so the worry is what next," said local elder Ali Hussein.

One man who was loudly celebrating the departure of al Shabaab fighters from the city was shot dead, residents said.

"These masked men came from behind him and hit him with several bullets right in the head ... Now we are terrified. Everyone in Kismayu is dumb, silent. We are afraid to talk on the phone outdoors," said Halima Nur, a mother of three.

Four more people, including a Muezzin - the person who calls prayers at a mosque - were shot dead in the same manner in the afternoon, residents told Reuters.

Although al Shabaab brought a semblance of law and security in Kismayu, its strict version of Islamic law alienated a huge portion of the population, residents said.

"We hope life will improve if the Somali and AU troops enter the town," said local Farah Hussein.

Residents said the fighters who abandoned Kismayu had moved to jungles that lie between Kismayu and Afmadow to the north, as well as to other towns north of the port city like Jamame and Kabsuma.

The rebel group, which counts foreign al Qaeda-trained fighters among its ranks, is seen as one of the biggest threats to stability in the Horn of Africa. It has received advice from al Qaeda's leadership, counter-terrorism experts say.

(Additional reporting by Duncan Miriri in Nairobi; Writing by Richard Lough and Duncan Miriri; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Al Shabaab rebels surrender in Somalia | Watch the video - Yahoo! News

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Thousands of Somalia’s Kismayo residents flee in anticipation of new clashes-PressTV

Sun Sep 23, 2012 11:35PM GMT


Abdulaziz Billow Ali, Press TV, Mogadishu
The U-N Refugee Agency is warning that mass displacements are likely to continue in the Somali town of Kismayo ahead of a military offensive by Kenyan and Somali government forces. The Agency reports that more than 10-thousand people left the strategic city in September alone
The UN refugee agency said on Friday it was closely following the situation around the Somali port city of Kismayo as thousands of residents fled in anticipation of new clashes.

“The Refugee Agency puts the figure at more than 10,000 adding that 7,500 people fled the area in the past four days amid growing tension”.

Human Rights Watch said earlier in August that Kenyan armed forces and other parties to the conflict in Somalia should make every effort to minimize civilian harm during military operations ahead of a major military offensive being mounted to the capturing of the strategic town from the Al-Shabaab fighters.

The UN report adds that most of the internally displaced Somalis are leaving Kismayo and its surroundings on minibuses with poorer households undertaking the journey in lorries and trucks, in some cases using donkey carts. Majority of those fleeing are said to be moving towards Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, and the refugee camps in Dadaab, north-east Kenya.

The United Nations also adds that the displaced fear being caught in the crossfire and possible reprisal attacks by armed groups operating in the town. Human Rights also warned Kenyan authorities need to ensure that measures to minimize civilian casualties are in place for all its military forces insisting that all forces should respect the laws of war, regardless of their status.

UNHCR also added that in eastern Ethiopia, 200-300 Somalis continue to arrive at the Dollo Ado camps every week mainly from the Gedo, Bakool and Bay regions and most of the new arrivals cite insecurity, fighting and fear of forced recruitment in Somalia as the main reasons for leaving their homes.

Somalia crisis remains as one of the worst humanitarian ones in the world, generating the largest number of refugees. More than a million Somalis live as refugees in the neighbouring countries like Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti and another 1.3 million are internally displaced across Somalia.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Local Eritreans applaud feds' move - Winnipeg Free Press

Ghezae Hagos: precedent for other countries.
Ghezae Hagos: precedent for other countries.
MANITOBA Eritreans are pleased after the Canadian government threatened to turf their home country's consul unless it stopped shaking down its former citizens for money.
The federal government told the Eritrean government that unless it stopped collecting a two per cent income tax from Eritreans living in Canada it would expel Semere Ghebremariam and close the country's consulate in Toronto.
"Canada made history," said a jubilant Ghezae Hagos on Friday.
"We have been working on this for many years now. This will set a precedent for other countries."
But Hagos believes the Canadian government still needs to close down the Eritrean consulate to stop it from coming up with another way of collecting the money. The tax has been a prerequisite for receiving any service from the Eritrean government, including a visitor visa to return to the country to visit family.
But the United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution prohibiting anyone from giving money to Eritrea for military activities. Canada adopted the resolution in 2010.
Last year, Ronald K. McMullen, a former U.S. ambassador to Eritrea, said the money collected by Eritrean embassies and community centres represented 11 per cent of Eritrea's gross domestic product.
Another Winnipeg Eritrean, Bereket Mebrahtu, said the tax collection was always "a violation of Canadian law.
"Nobody is allowed to have an extortion tax," Mebrahtu said. "The only solution is to close the consulate for good... This is an interim step."
Tom Denton, executive director of the Hospitality House Refugee Ministry, called the federal government's move "an amazing development.
"Word about this will spread like wildfire through the community, but will this stop it? Only time will tell."
Human rights lawyer David Matas said he fears the issue isn't over.
Matas said the Eritrean government appears to be saying the tax law is still in effect even though it won't ask Eritreans in Canada to pay the tax.
"They are taking the position it is a formality and not a substantive change," the lawyer said.
"The position is it is still active, but they won't enforce it. So the problem is not solved."
Matas said the only solution is for the Canadian government to press the matter directly with the Eritrean government.
Lambros Kyriakakos, president of the Eritrean Community in Winnipeg Inc., could not be reached for comment.
But the organization has said in the past the tax allegations are "absurd," while Kyriakakos has said in a past statement that the United Nations sanctions against Eritrea are "unjust and unfair."
The organization staged a protest in front of the Free Press building last year in response to stories detailing complaints against Eritrean government activities.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 22, 2012 A14

ETHIOPIA: Empowering Somali women refugees to talk about violence | WNN – Women News Network

Ryan Erickson - WNN MDG Stories
Somali refugee women gather for talks and tea as they work together to stop gender based violence in the camps
Somali refugee women gather for talks and tea as they work together to stop gender based violence in the camps. Image: International Medical Corps

(WNN/IMC) Dolo Ado, ETHIOPIA: Dozens of pairs of yellow, green, and blue flip-flop sandals lie neatly organized outside a plastic tent in Zone T of Melkadida refugee camp in the Dolo Ado complex. Located in the resource-poor Somali Region of Ethiopia, Dolo Ado is home to nearly 150,000 Somali refugees who have fled across the border in search of food and other basic resources following the East Africa drought and famine emergency. Thousands of tents dot the dusty, wind-swept landscape throughout Dolo Ado. The only other distinguishing feature about this particular tent with the collection of footwear at its entrance is a eucalyptus pole with an International Medical Corps flag fluttering at its top.
Since 2003, International Medical Corps has operated a multi-faceted program in Ethiopia, working to strengthen services to prevent gender based violence, HIV/AIDS and infectious disease, improve water and sanitation levels, as well as offer psychosocial support, maternal and child health, and other programs.
Inside the tent, a group of some thirty women – many with toddlers and infants wriggling on their laps – and five men sit cross-legged on the tarpaulin floor for an International Medical Corps-sponsored tea-talk session. They listen intently as Hakima,* an International Medical Corps Gender-Based Violence (GBV) refugee volunteer, explains to her peers what GBV is, providing some examples to illustrate. One of the participants raises her hand and asks, “Is GBV perpetrated only by men against women?”
Hakima replies, saying that no, GBV can also be perpetrated by women, but that in the vast majority of cases, men are usually the perpetrators since they are the ones who usually hold power in a local household or community. The woman who asked the question is Sadiya,* a mother from a rural, agrarian part of the Baidow region of Somalia. Sadiya left her home after severe drought caused her family’s livestock to perish and their crops to fail. The drought also tragically claimed the lives of three of her children. Sadiya crossed the Ethiopian border last May with five of her children while her husband remained behind to look after their property. The grueling thirty-day journey on foot took its toll on her children and her youngest succumbed soon after their arrival.
Nine months later, Sadiya and her four remaining children have adjusted to life in Melkadida. Like most refugees in Dolo Ado, Sadiya still faces many challenges, from walking great distances to collect firewood to ensuring that her children stay healthy in the harsh environment. But one of the benefits of living in Melkadida, Sadiya explains, is the opportunity to be exposed to new ideas on how to improve her and her family’s life, such as the ideas shared at the International Medical Corps GBV tea-talk sessions.
“I like attending the tea-talk sessions. I can be here with my friends. I feel safe here,” she says, clutching a cup of sweet milk tea in one hand and a fistful of popcorn – a Somali favorite – in the other. “I have a young daughter and thanks to what I have learned here, I won’t make her marry early. And I won’t subject her to female genital cutting.”
In addition to running the tea-talk sessions, where the community can learn about and freely discuss issues surrounding GBV, International Medical Corps also provides treatment, case management and referrals to legal services for those affected by GBV.
Asked if her husband would object to her new views when he joins her and their children later this year, Sadiya replies, “I will educate him, and I think he will listen. If not, I will bring him to a tea-talk session.”
*Names have been changed.

About Me

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Prof. Muse Tegegne has lectured sociology Change &  Liberation  in Europe, Africa and Americas. He has obtained  Doctorat es Science from the University of Geneva.   A PhD in Developmental Studies & ND in Natural Therapies.  He wrote on the  problematic of  the Horn of  Africa extensively. He Speaks Amharic, Tigergna, Hebrew, English, French. He has a good comprehension of Arabic, Spanish and Italian.