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Somalia

Tag Archives | Somalia

Education is the Most Effective Way to Counter Radical Islam

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JC McIlwaine/UN Photo
JC McIlwaine/UN Photo

JC McIlwaine/UN Photo

On June 10, 2014 our family returned to Africa as we do every year. Kenya’s Masai Mara was again selected. There were fourteen of us, including twelve family members and two close friends, ranging in age from eight to eighty. The youngest family member had been to Africa six times. Marcia and I first visited Africa in 1970, on a fact-finding mission to review CARE, UNICEF and World Food Program operations in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. We have since been to over twenty-five countries–some a number of times. As U.S. ambassador from 2002 to 2005, I oversaw three Indian Ocean island nations off the coast of Africa–Mauritius, Comoros and Seychelles.

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Despite its Detractors, the film, The Rise of al-Qaeda has its Many Supporters

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Damon Winter/The New York Times
Damon Winter/The New York Times

Damon Winter/The New York Times

An Interfaith panel and several Muslim organizations are upset over the film, The Rise of al-Qaeda, depicting the September 11, 2001 terrorist attackers as Islamic jihadists. They do not want the world to believe the hijackers that carried out the heinous attacks against the United States were linked to al-Qaeda, a radical Islamist movement founded by Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1987. The 9/11 Memorial Museum, as per their website, represents “An educational and historical institution honoring the victims and examining 9/11 and its continued global significance.”

Nineteen jihadists were responsible for the 9/11 attacks–fifteen came from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Lebanon, and one from Egypt. Osama bin Laden, the planner, was indoctrinated by Wahhabi preachers–a fundamentalist Sunni Islam sect– having its origins in Saudi Arabia. Killing of infidels had become a justifiable act in the teachings of the Wahhabi doctrine. Osama bin Laden’s hatred of the United States took root in 1991, when the Saudi monarchy invited the U.S. to use their soil as a staging area for the military incursion into Kuwait to oust Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces. Bin Laden was upset that the Saudi government would allow American boots on their soil. As a result he declared a “jihad” against the United States, stating it was not permissible for infidels to step onto the sacred soil of the “Land of the Two Holy Mosques, Mecca and Medina.”

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Somalia: Searching for Unity in a Fragmented Country

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Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud pictured here in Mogadishu. David Mutua/UN

Twenty-three years have passed since the collapse of the Somali federal government in 1991.

Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud pictured here in Mogadishu. David Mutua/UN

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud pictured here in Mogadishu. David Mutua/UN

Since then, multiple regional states constituted as separate states, including Somaliland, have emerged as breakaways with no formal recognition from elsewhere. Other eastern Somali communities built their own administrations. In 1998, in the southeast of Somalia, Puntland was formed. Lately, two communities from the south in Jubbaland and southeast of Baidao declared their quasi-autonomous status within Somalia. Like Mogadishu, all the emerged states are based on a single clan.

Previously, the federal government’s leaders failed to put those states together as non-tribal states (six from the south and two from north) or eighteen regions after the October revolution 1969. Somalis citizens everywhere are hungry for a government that secures its own borders, secures its citizens and their property, delivers services and cares for national business interests. Unfortunately, none of this has been seen for the past two decades. The question to ask would simply be why?

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Religious Diversity in East Africa and the Horn

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Horn of Africa

The Pew Research Center published on 4 April 2014 a study on Global Religious Diversity. It gives a score to all countries of the world on their degree of religious diversity. Higher scores indicate higher diversity. The 10-point scoring system designates countries with scores of 7.0 and higher (the top 5 percent) as having a very high degree of religious diversity. Countries with scores from 5.3 to 6.9 percent (the next highest 15 percent of scores) have a high level of diversity. Countries with scores from 3.1 to 5.2 (the following 20 percent of scores) have moderate diversity. The remaining countries have low diversity.

South Sudan (6.0), Tanzania (5.7), Ethiopia (5.6) and Eritrea (5.4) have high religious diversity. Kenya (3.1) has moderate diversity. Uganda (2.7), Sudan (2.0), Djibouti (0.7), and Somalia (0.1) have low diversity. The study also provides the percentage of different religions for each country.

Somalias Al Shabaab and Social Media

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Al Shabaab militants

Jane’s Intelligence Review published in March 2014 a good analysis titled “Hashtag Shabaab: Islamists Develop Sophisticated Online Strategy” by Richard Evans, director in the Intelligence, Security and Risk division of IHS Aerospace, Defence, and Security Consulting. The author concluded that al-Shabaab and its supporters have developed a broad and sophisticated online communication strategy using multiple social media platforms to reach a global audience.

Al-Shabaab has exploited social media to engage with its supporters, adversaries, and the mainstream media, and has successfully shaped the news agenda through micro-blogging platforms such as Twitter. However, al-Shabaab faces significant challenges in using social media to directly influence people to support its agenda or attract new recruits. The full article is only available by subscription or access though a library.

Africa Needs to Rethink Piracy Challenge

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Somali pirates

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in South Africa published on 10 March 2014 a piece titled “Fewer Pirates, Different Risks: Africa Needs to Rethink Its Approach to Maritime Security” by Timothy Walker, researcher at ISS.

There has been a sharp decline in piracy in waters off Africa. The author argues that the Djibouti Code of Conduct is a laudable starting point upon which to build future maritime security capacity in Africa. But African maritime stakeholders now need to implement the 2050 African Integrated Maritime Strategy, which was adopted by the African Union early this year, as well as become involved in creating and implementing national and regional integrated maritime strategies.

Clan Violence Vested in Somali Clan Fiefdoms

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Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud

The practice of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) of allegedly leaking reports to the media on “systematic abuses” has done a disservice to the efforts of statebuilding in Somalia.

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud

It has also reinforced public distrust about the intentions of outside groups. Equally, it has also tarnished the reputation of UNISOM. SEMG, supposedly an independent Auditor-General for assessing the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions, has violated a number of rules for the integrity of its work. Impartiality and an apolitical stance with respect to interested parties is key, investigators should show impartiality towards the groups they are monitoring and accountability is key.

The latest report issued by SEMG on Feb 6, 2013 assesses the implementation of UN Security Resolution 2093 (2013) concerns the partial lifting of the arms embargo to achieve the goal of statebuilding in Somalia. The resolution, adopted against the vigorous objection of Kenya and Ethiopia, was intended to implement the UN approved plan for the creation of a Somali National Army (SNA), necessary for a sovereign Somali state.

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The Reinvention of Al Shabaab

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Al Shabaab militants

The Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington published in February 2014 an analysis titled “The Reinvention of Al-Shabaab: A Strategy of Choice or Necessity?” by Matt Bryden, director of Sahan Research, a think tank located in Nairobi, Kenya.

In this excellent study, Bryden notes that al-Shabaab’s leadership was once relatively heterogeneous, including nationalist and politically pragmatic figures such as Hassan Dahir Aweys and Muktar Robow. There were differences within al-Shabaab over the value of a relationship with al-Qaeda, the wisdom of attacks on civilians, and the role of foreign fighters in the organization. Following a purge of the nationalists, what now remains of al-Shabaab is the more extremist fringe: an al-Qaeda franchise in Somalia, imbued with the “takfiri” ethos that legitimizes the killing of other Muslims, and recommitment to the cause of international jihad and the restoration of an Islamic caliphate.

In Spite of Turmoil, Egypt and Israel have Maintained Bilateral Relations

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Israeli security forces seen patrolling the border between Egypt and Israel.  Tsafrir Abayov/FLASH90

With Al Qaeda’s presence growing in the Sinai, Egypt and Israel have stepped up joint bilateral security cooperation to deal with the threat.

Israeli security forces seen patrolling the border between Egypt and Israel. Tsafrir Abayov/FLASH90

Amidst the turmoil that has ensued throughout post-Mubarak Egypt, Al Qaeda (AQ) has established a stronghold in the Sinai from where jihadists routinely target Egypt and Israel. In turn, Egyptian and Israeli security forces have increased cooperation to address the Sinai’s security challenges, underscoring that the bilateral relationship remains intact. While in the longer term the direction of bilateral relations remains uncertain, in the near term Al Qaeda’s actions have strengthened security ties between Egypt and Israel. Al Qaeda’s actions in the Sinai and Levant have also served to enhance the likelihood that other governments in the region, such as Jordan and Turkey, will continue to cooperate with Israel on security–related issues.

An ‘Islamic Emirate’ between Egypt and Israel

Since Israel’s withdrawal from Egyptian territory in 1982, the Sinai has proven to be Egypt’s most ungovernable territory. The Mahahith Amn al-Dawla (MAD) — the highest internal security authority in Egypt — was responsible for ensuring law and order in the restive Sinai and cracking down on underground Islamist movements. Throughout Mubarak’s rule, the MAD prevented Islamist militants from successfully launching more than only a few attacks across the Egyptian-Israeli border. However, Mubarak’s fall led to the MAD’s dissolution, raising question about the Egyptian government’s capacity to effectively combat militant jihadist forces.

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Ethiopian Troops have Joined AMISOM: What This Means for AMISOM as a ‘Neutral Force’

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Ethiopian troops in Baidoa, Somalia following their inclusion in AMISOM. Tobin Jones/UN

“It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favour of vegetarianism while the wolf remains of a different opinion.” – William Ralph Inge

Ethiopian troops in Baidoa, Somalia following their inclusion in AMISOM. Tobin Jones/UN

On January 22nd, Ethiopian troops officially joined the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), contributing about four thousand soldiers. If past experience is anything to go by, when troops from Somalia’s neighbouring countries have joined the peacekeeping effort in Somalia, this has damaged the credibility of AMISOM as a neutral force. Furthermore, the presence of Ethiopian troops as part of AMISOM will probably fuel factional fighting in Somalia, and strengthen Al-Shabaab in the process.

There are three main reasons why Ethiopian troops should not be part of AMISOM. First, their is a long and bloody history between Somalia and Ethiopia and unresolved land disputes that should be settled first. For example, it would be inconceivable to contemplate sending Indian troops to Pakistan for peacekeeping purposes, or Iranian troops to Iraq for the same reason. Immediately after Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia in 2007 to combat the Islamic Courts Union, after being encouraged by the United States to do so, the United Nations reported, “Public sentiment of the continued presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia has created a volatile situation, which has seriously constrained humanitarian delivery and emerging operations in the centre and south of the country.”

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In Sudan, Remnants of Colonialism’s Dead Hand

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UN peacekeepers at a camp for internally displaced persons in Juba. Isaac Billy/UN

“The negotiations have to be serious. They cannot be a delay gimmick in order to continue the fighting and try to find advantage on the ground at the expense of the people of South Sudan.” – John Kerry

UN peacekeepers at a camp for internally displaced persons in Juba. Isaac Billy/UN

Hopefully the recent ceasefire agreement between the warring parties in South Sudan will halt that country’s downward spiral into civil war. But if it does it will have to buck the convergence of two powerful historical streams: a legacy of colonial manipulation dating back more than a hundred years, and the current policies of the U.S. vis-à-vis the African continent. South Sudan became a country in 2011 when its residents voted overwhelmingly to separate from the Sudan, at the time the largest country in Africa.

But a falling out late last year between South Sudan President Salva Kiir, a member of the Dinka tribe, and Vice President Riek Machar, a member of the Nuer tribe, has plunged the country into war. Cities have been sacked, thousands killed, and almost 200,000 people turned into refugees. The birth of continent’s newest nation was largely an American endeavor, brought about by a polyglot coalition of Christian evangelicals, U.S. corporations, the Bush and Obama administrations, the Congressional Black Caucus, and human rights supporters.

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What Happened to a Terrorist Corporation?

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Tracking Al Qaeda's financing is a complicated process

“For money is the oxygen of terrorism. Without the means to raise and move money around the world, terrorists cannot function.” – Colin Powell

Tracking Al Qaeda’s financing is a complicated process

Al Qaeda thrived on plenty of oxygen. We imagine them as a rag-tag jihadi gang laundering money from any black market sympathetic to their Islamic state – charities, mosques, cartels, or rich relatives. If this image is in any way reality, then Al Qaeda’s more consistent ransoming, such as the kidnapping of a South African couple Yolande and husband Pierre Korkie, seems like just another sleazy scheme. But, the reality of the financial structure of Al Qaeda is too banal to imagine: it has been fueled through a diversified portfolio of investments, investors, money transferred through banks, and employment – of the legal kind.

In other words, Al Qaeda dollars have been funneling through the same monetary system David Cameron uses to buy his silk blue ties. In this regard, it has been analogized by Western media to a “multinational corporation.” In an interview from September 28, 2001, Osama bin Laden stated, “Al Qaeda is comprised of such modern educated youths who are aware of the cracks inside the Western financial system.” If they are so well aware of these cracks, then why is ransoming increasing? Al Qaeda’s increase in kidnapping shows they are desperately gasping for oxygen.

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A Look at Muslim-Christian Relations in Ethiopia

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Gathering of African heterodox Muslims in eastern Ethiopia. Photo: Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak

The Muslim-Christian relationship in Ethiopia has a mixed historical background. Ethiopia is located on a religious fault line, although the relationship between the two religions has been reasonably cordial in recent decades.

Gathering of African heterodox Muslims in eastern Ethiopia. Photo: Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak

Christian rule has prevailed in the Ethiopian highlands since the early 4th century. Early in the 7th century a group of Arab followers of Islam in danger of persecution by local authorities in Arabia took refuge in the Axumite Kingdom of the Ethiopian highlands. As a result of this generosity, the Prophet Mohammed concluded that Ethiopia should not be targeted for jihad. Not all Muslims took this message seriously and subsequent contact was less cordial. In the late 15th century, Islamic raids from the Somali port of Zeila plagued the Ethiopian highlands. In the first half of the 16th century, the Islamic threat became more serious when Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al Ghazi rallied a diverse group of Muslims in a jihad to end Christian power in the highlands. The Ethiopians finally defeated this threat by the middle of the 16th century.

Although Wahhabi missionaries from the Arabian Peninsula made efforts to penetrate Ethiopia beginning in the 19th century, they had little success until recent decades. During the first half of the 1800s, Egyptian/Ottoman power in neighboring Sudan made periodic incursions inside Ethiopia. In 1875, the khedive of Egypt tried unsuccessfully to conquer Ethiopia entering from the Red Sea. The last major organized threat from Islam occurred in 1888 when the forces of the Mahdi in the Sudan sacked the former Ethiopian capital of Gondar and burned many of its churches. Subsequently, both the Ethiopians and the Mahdists harbored rebels opposed to the other side, creating a tit-for-tat situation that has periodically continued to the present day.

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The Controversial Repatriation of Somali Refugees from Kenya

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Somali refugees

Somali refugees

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) published on 15 January 2014 a commentary titled “The Controversial Repatriation of Somali Refugees from Kenya” by ISS intern Hawa Noor and ISS senior researcher Emmanuel Kisiangani.

In November 2013, Kenya and Somalia signed a tripartite agreement with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to repatriate refugees from Kenya, especially those in the Dadaab Refugee Conplex, to “safe areas” in southern Somalia. The concern, however, is whether the current security environment inside Somalia is amenable to voluntary repatriation. The authors emphasize that the repatriation process must be truly voluntary.

Fixing Somalia for Future Generations

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A young girl sits on a jerry can, as her mother fills up another with water, near the town of Jowhar, Somalia.  Tobin Jones/UN

Somalia has fallen into a hole of uncertainty after the collapse of the military government in 1991.

A young girl sits on a jerry can, as her mother fills up another with water, near the town of Jowhar, Somalia. Tobin Jones/UN

In 1991 nobody could have predicted that Somalia’s political stalemate, bloodshed and strife would be endless. The prolonged civil war and violence will never be understood by a vast majority of non-Somalis. It has destroyed the national characteristics that hold my country together. The longer that Somalis are unable to resolve long held animosities, the basic structures of my society will be eroded. The bloodshed has claimed countless numbers of lives and inflicted a material loss of huge proportions. However, nobody can bring back the past but the future is worth thinking about in order to understand what went wrong in Somalia. Having said that, it is not constructive to be preoccupied with the past. Only Somalis will find solutions for the future.

There is a Somali saying, “Somalis don’t say a false proverb,” which roughly means that Somali culture is rich with wisdom and there is another, “Wisdom does not come overnight.” It is very clear that Somalia needs solutions which will not be easy to find and those solutions will not be found overnight. Potential solutions should be sought from the millions of Somalis who live abroad. Additionally, going forward, Somali politicians must not have a monopoly of ideas. Every Somali should be given an equal voice. Maybe quelling the fire of anarchy in Somalia is not that complicated but it needs a spark at the right time and in the right place to be initiated by Somalis which will lead to a country free from tribalism and bias. In the 21st century the world is undergoing swift changes in terms of human capital and independent thought and Somalis are part of these global changes.

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