August 23, 2012
The new parliament has yet to select a new president to actually run, or try to run, the country. The leading candidates are all considered tainted (corrupt and likely to steal foreign aid) by the international donor community. The major thieves named, or implied, in a recent UN corruption investigation deny they stole anything over the last eight years, even though the evidence against them is overwhelming and often quite obvious. Prospects for the new government are not good. Those Somalis who most often attain leadership positions have proved rapacious and incompetent, except when it comes to stealing aid for themselves their families and, to a lesser extent, their tribe (called clans in Somalia). This is a common pattern in failed states and chronically poor areas in general. But to the UN, giving up is not an option, despite bleak prospects.
Many EU (European Union) members are ready to stop participation in the international anti-piracy patrol off Somalia. It`s expensive and there is a sense that the pirates are in permanent decline. As of this June only eight vessels and 215 crew were being held for ransom compared to 23 vessels and 501 crew in June 2011. It`s been noted that no ship with armed guards has been attacked. The use of armed guards was long resisted, largely because of the fear that it would cause more violence. That has not happened, as the pirates do not press attacks on ships that fire back. The armed guards are usually professionals and have the advantage of height (and a more stable firing platform), better training and superior weapons. Shipping companies and others close to the situation warn that the pirates are not going out-of-business. The pirates are searching for new technology and tactics, and are trying to get larger ransoms for the few ships they do take. In other words, the pirates are not going away and neither should the anti-piracy effort. Leaders of the anti-piracy operations believe that going after the financiers and people who supply the pirates with weapons and consumer goods is doing a lot of damage to the pirates. But it is understood that the piracy problem can be eliminated only once the ports the pirates operate from are shut down. That is not going to happen as long as the pirates are better armed and wealthier (and able to bribe officials) than what passes for local government (in most cases, Puntland).
Al Shabaab is largely destroyed as a military force, but is still operating terrorist cells and death squads. These clandestine operations will take longer to shut down, and al Shabaab may turn into a criminal gang before that happens. That`s the usual pattern in situations like this.
August 20, 2012: On schedule the new parliament met for the first time and 215 members were sworn in. The two chamber Somali National Constituent Assembly (275 from the Lower House and 54, representing the 18 administrative regions in the Upper House) was selected by clan leaders and screened by outsiders to eliminate the obvious criminals, Islamic radicals and incompetents. This caused some friction, but resulted in a more professional group than the transitional government that has been operating, without much success, for eight years. A UN audit found that transitional leaders and officials stole 70 percent of the foreign aid they were given to distribute. Many members of the transitional government tried to join the new parliament and some succeeded. The UN and other foreign donors warn that if the stealing doesn`t stop (or at least sharply decline) the foreign aid will stop. That has already been happening, as foreign donors
August 19, 2012: Uganda is willing to send more Mi-24 gunships to replace the four that crashed on the 12th after encountering bad weather on their way to Somalia. African air forces do not take good care of their aircraft and their personnel are not of the highest quality. Uganda could probably use some Western assistance here.
August 15, 2012: Three al Shabaab men were killed while trying to enter Uganda to carry out terrorist missions.
In Kismayo, the southern port that is al Shabaabs last urban stronghold, about a dozen mortar shells were fired at al Shabaab bases in the city. This was apparently part of a larger operation where Kenyan troops moved closer to Kismayo. This operation, which has apparently been going on for a day or two, left 73 al Shabaab men and two Kenyan soldiers dead.
August 14, 2012: Kenya has decided to postpone the attack on Kismayo because of the loss of four Mi-24 helicopter gunships that crashed while flying in from Uganda
Somali president hits back against U.N. graft charges
By Yara Bayoumy
August 17, 2012
MOGADISHU, Aug 17 (Reuters) - Somalia`s president dismissed a U.N. report that accused senior leaders of corruption and defended his record as he campaigned for re-election in a landmark vote.
Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, who took over as head of a Western-backed transitional government in 2009, also promised he would step down if he lost - in an apparent answer to some critics who are concerned he could be planning to cling on to power.
Mired in conflict for more than two decades, the Horn of Africa state is on the cusp of a presidential election that will end a succession of United Nations-backed transitional governments, in place since 2004.
Western and regional states have pumped in millions of dollars in aid, and sent African troops to help crush al Qaeda-affiliated militants.
But the United Nations` Somalia monitoring group in July said it had found that, out of every $10 received by the transitional federal government (TFG) between 2009-2010, $7 never made into the state`s coffers.
“We regret this report. It is a fabricated report and a lie. Those people who compiled it are intent for Somalia to stay as it is,” Ahmed told Reuters on Thursday in the plush garden of Villa Somalia, his official residence in Mogadishu.
“If money had been seized, Somalia would never have reached the stage it has today,” Ahmed said, citing progress in security conditions.
Ahmed, the current prime minister and parliament speaker are all contesting the election due to take place on or around August 20, the end of the TFG`s mandate.
Under a complex procedure, tribal alders are in the process of nominating members of a new parliament. Those parliamentarians, once vetted by a committee, will then vote for the president who will start a four-year term.
While donors are frustrated by the widespread graft, they are unlikely to wash their hands of the largely lawless country seen as a fertile breeding ground for Islamist militants.
Decades of fighting and a series of droughts have also left millions homeless and in need of food aid.
The U.N. report said that in 2011 almost a quarter of the government`s total expenditure - more than $12 million - was absorbed by the offices of the three top leaders.
“It is clear from the Monitoring Group`s investigations that the political will to enact ... reform is lacking in the highest echelons of government,” the report said.
Ahmed denied that funds had been misappropriated, saying they had been spent to lift Somalia out of its interminable state of crisis.
Privately though, Somalia-focused diplomats in Nairobi say Ahmed, a former leader of an Islamist rebel group, has failed to deliver on security gains and basic public services.
International observers say it is too difficult to predict who will win the election in a country where clan politics, rather than political qualifications, often determine an individual`s political future.
Ahmed, whose mandate was supposed to end in 2011 before being extended by another year, said he had no intention of holding onto power.
“We are ready to accept the outcome, whatever it is,” he told Reuters.
(Editing by Richard Lough and Andrew Heavens)
© 2012 Reuters Limited
As Election Nears, Candidates Accused of Corruption
Voice of America Press Releases and Documents
August 13, 2012
As Somali Election Nears, Candidates Accused of Corruption
NAIROBI -- As the process for ending Somalia`s political transition gathers momentum, some presidential candidates have been accused of both interfering with the process of electing new parliamentarians and vote-buying ahead of the presidential election, which is due to take place on August 20.
It is common to hear one of the dozens of presidential candidates say “I want to run for president.”
In response, many Somali politicians and the public ask, “Does he have money to buy votes?”
Dr. Abdirahman Mohamed, a presidential candidate, says questioning how deep is the pocket of a candidate is like saying only corrupt leaders who have stolen from state coffers are eligible to run.
“That`s the most cynical question, because the issue of running Somalia is not about money,” he said. “That`s a wrong question. The issue is do you have vision and plan how you are going to build Somalia?”
The transition process calls for clan elders to choose members of a new parliament. Those new lawmakers will then elect the new president.
Mohamed Ali Hashi, a former political advisor in Somalia, says clan elders are using their power in the process to advance their communities` interests -- something the candidates are well aware of. “Even clans have their own interests. They do negotiate with candidates but since candidates are very many and everybody is trying to sell his own candidacy campaign, the clans can also be confused because everybody is promising whatever he was asked,” he added.
According to Hashi, since every candidate is promising the same thing, financial offers are often the deciding factor. “There are also financial interests and as you know these Somali people, with the difficulties they have, money is one of the items which can influence the vote,” he stated. “So the financial influence is also there very strongly.”
Hashi says candidates call certain clan representatives who will be voting, and give them the money they request which clan members divide among themselves.
Earlier this month, the U.N. special representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, warned of vote-buying and corruption taking place in the process to name new lawmakers.
He said parliamentary seats should not be commodities for sale or items for auction at a time when the international community is trying to restore stability to Somalia.
A senior U.S. State Department official warned the United States will take action against anyone who seeks to undermine the process, including members of Somalia`s government.
© Copyright 2012 Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc.
A Mess Beyond Redemption
October 04, 2011
Food aid is now reaching about half the starving famine victims in Somalia. That`s up from 750,000 three months ago. While al Shabaab bars food aid for about two million people, aid groups believe they can bribe al Shabaab sufficiently to allow the rest of the starving Somalis to get food by the end of the year.
Turkey is taking the lead, among Moslem nations, in raising money for Somali famine relief, and has pledged more than twice as much as the Gulf Arab oil states. The Gulf Arabs have long been reluctant to get too involved in Somalia, which is seen as a mess beyond redemption. These Gulf States have enough problems with illegal migrants from Somalia. Western donors have sustained Somalia for most of the last two decades, but are now backing away because of the rampant corruption and violence against aid workers. The Turks believe that a little more violence of their own, and greater tolerance for bribery, will get the aid to those who need it. Until the late 19th century, the Turks were a presence in this region, and getting involved again feed national pride. But so far this year, the United States has been the largest provider of relief aid to Somalia and its neighbors ($650 million worth).
The problem with all of Somalia, including the relatively stable statelets of Puntland and Somaliland in the north, is the rampant corruption. A position of authority (in government or clan leadership) is considered a license to steal. This is especially true with any kind of foreign aid. Criticism of this behavior is not tolerated, as is seen by the number of local journalists beaten, arrested or killed because of stories deploring the stealing.
Twice in the last month, Somali bandits crossed the Kenyan border and kidnapped a Western tourist from a beach resort popular with wealthy foreigners. As a result, most of the tourists fled and several Western nations warned their citizens to avoid parts of Kenya subject to Somali raids. In response, Kenya has sent more troops and police to the Somali border. These recent raids are nothing new. For centuries, Somalis have raided into Kenya, looting, raping and kidnapping as they went. This banditry was suppressed (but not eliminated) during the European colonial period (late-19th to mid-20th century). The raiders are admired in Somalia and feared in Kenya. The two recent tourist kidnappings were carried out by raiders who came from the sea via motorboats. Kenya is keen on seeing a government established in Somalia, as that would greatly reduce the raiding.
Al Shabaab is ordering merchants to only use Arabic on their billboards, posters and store signs. English and Somali are often used. Al Shabaab has also banned the use of the Somali flag, insisting that the black al Shabaab flag be flown.
September 30, 2011: Somali raiders came at night and attacked a Kenyan beach resort a few kilometers from the Somali border. The raiders dragged a 66 year old French woman from her wheelchair to a boat on the beach and back to Somalia. Kenyan police were alerted and pursued in a boat. A gun battle took place, which saw two Kenyan sailors killed, along with several kidnappers. But the kidnappers made it into Somali territory, and Kenyan forces are not allowed to follow. The Kenyan government may change that policy as a result of this incident. A British tourist was taken from the same area on September 11th. Tourism is Kenya`s largest source of foreign currency, and the government is normally very efficient at providing foreign tourists with adequate security. It`s unclear how the Kenyan`s dropped the ball here. Apparently some Somali gangs along the Kenyan border detected an opportunity, and took it.
Al Shabaab gunmen attacked the southern town of Dobley, but were repulsed. The town is held by local militias, who call the border area Azania. Six months ago, al Shabaab lost control of this town on the Kenyan border, along with another one (Liboi). The fighting was intense, with over 500 casualties (for both sides). There were nearly 200 dead. But now Azania and TNG (Transitional National Government) forces control this key border crossing, and have repulsed several al Shabaab efforts to come back.
Kenya and local clan leaders along the border are trying to create security and stability by declaring the establishment of an autonomous region along the border, called Azania. This is modeled on Somaliland and Puntland in the north, where they have had peace, prosperity and pirates since the 1990s. Kenya is supporting Azania, if only to make it more difficult for Somali refugees, bandits and raiders from getting into Kenya. Azania is part of a trend, where local tribal (“clan”, in Somali parlance) leaders declare their own mini-states. There are over twenty of these in Somalia now.
September 29, 2011: In the south, fighting broke out, on the road between the villages of Belet Hawo and Garbaharey. TNG soldiers and al Shabaab gunmen fought for several hours, causing over a dozen casualties. The al Shabaab men backed off.
September 24, 2011: An American UAV crashed, apparently because of mechanical problems, near the airport outside the southern port of Kismayu. These UAVs (mainly Predators and Reapers) are increasingly common sights over al Shabaab held territory. The missiles occasionally fire missiles at al Shabaab personnel. There have been at least three missile attacks around Kismayu in the last few days.