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Horn of Africa
Korea announces $5-billion financial package for Africa at African Development Bank Annual Meetings
Source: Africa Development Bank Group, Thursday May 24, 2018
The Bank and the Republic of Korea also signed an agreement with the intent to provide up to $600 million towards the energy sector
BUSAN, Republic of Korea — The Government of Korea and the African Development Bank have issued a Joint Declaration following the conclusion of the Ministerial Roundtable of the Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation (KOAFEC) Conference taking place during the African Development Bank’s 53rd Annual Meetings in which Korea announced a $5-billion bilateral financial assistance package for Africa.
The Ministerial Roundtable is the signature event of the biennial KOAFEC Conference, gathering a peer group of African Ministers of Finance who also serve as the African Development Bank Board of Governors to discuss topical issues and a pan-African approach to engagement with Korea. Taking place under the theme “Africa and the 4th Industrial Revolution: Opportunities for leapfrogging?”, the Ministerial Conference highlighted the need for long-term planning for industrial development and execution of projects, as well as a focus on value addition in sectors where Africa has comparative advantage for example in agriculture and natural resources. There was also a need to further leverage technology such as the mobile phone for more inclusive growth, in favour of the youth.
The $5-billion financial assistance package will be delivered over two years through partnerships with various development agencies, including but not limited to the African Development Bank Group. The package leverages resources from various Korean bilateral agencies and platforms, including the Knowledge Sharing Program, the Economic Development Cooperation Fund, Korea Import-Export Bank, among others. Specifically, African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina and the Deputy Prime Minister of Korea, Dong Yeon Kim, signed three cooperation agreements for the implementation of certain components of the $5-billion package by the Bank Group. The first was the extension of the General Cooperation Agreement which allowed for the replenishment of the KOAFEC Trust Fund housed at the African Development Bank with US $18 million. The Trust Fund, now totaling $93 million will continue to provide critical capacity building grants and resources for project feasibility studies. An Action Plan of 20 KOAFEC projects were endorsed during the Conference for 2019-2020 destined for a diverse group of countries and sectors.
The Bank and the Republic of Korea also signed an agreement with the intent to provide up to $600 million towards the energy sector. The Bank and the Government of Korea also signed an MOU for the Korea-AfDB Tech Corps Program which will allow for the exchange of technical expertise and human resources, to address ongoing challenges of youth unemployment in both regions. On the occasion, President Adesina noted that “Africa needs to build, and we will build, wider partnerships for development. We want to build strong investment partnerships with Asia going forward.”
Storm in Somaliland kills dozens, wipes out farms, livestock are
Source: Reuters, Thursday May 24, 2018
More than 50 people have died in Somaliland, livestock has been wiped out and hundreds of farms destroyed by heavy rains and floods caused by a tropical cyclone that hit the Horn of Africa, officials and aid agencies in the breakaway Somali region said.
Somaliland broke away from Somalia in 1991 and operates as an independent state but has not won international recognition.
“The death toll from the cyclone is so far over 50 people,” vice president Abdirahman Abdullahi Ismail told reporters late on Tuesday in Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa. “(The) death toll may rise because there are other people who are still missing.”
Tropical cyclone Sagar made landfall on Saturday in north-western Somaliland and Djibouti, three days after it formed in the Gulf of Aden, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).
UNOCHA said 669,000 people have been affected in Somaliland, giving a toll of 25 people so far confirmed dead and 27 missing, with numbers likely to rise as information arrives from areas that are now inaccessible.
Two people were confirmed dead in Puntland, a semi-autonomous northeastern region of Somalia, and another two in Djibouti, UNOCHA said.
“80 per cent of livestock in affected areas were killed. Reports indicate that some 700 farms have been destroyed in Somaliland,” UNOCHA said.
Conflict in the disputed regions of Sool and Sanaag was making it harder to reach some flood-hit areas, UNOCHA said earlier this week. Drought dating back to 2015 has made the regions prone to flash flooding after rain.
Vice president Ismail said assistance from the United Arab Emirates had allowed authorities to reach affected areas and bring emergency food.
“Using the two helicopters UAE helped us with, we have reached today Lughaya and Baki towns which were hit by the cyclone,” he said. “There are other far areas we flew over but could not land and reach because of floods.”
The UAE is an important aid provider for Somaliland, where a firm owned by the gulf state has pledged up to $440 million to develop the breakaway’s region port of Berbera.
Speaking separately, Somaliland’s president Musa Bihi said the region needed emergency help: “Over 600 people lost their homes, animals and farms,” he told students in Hargeisa.
Since the beginning of the rainy season in Somalia in March, riverine and flash floods have caused fatalities, massive displacement and damage to infrastructure and cropland. An estimated 772,500 people have been affected by flooding and more than 229,000 are displaced, UNOCHA said.
After a severe drought last year, East Africa has been hit by two months of heavy rain, affecting nearly a million people in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Uganda.
Somali Fishermen Struggle to Compete with Foreign Vessels e
Source: VOA, Monday May 21, 2018
A fisherman comes in with his boat to Bossaso’s fishing beach in northern Somalia in late March 2018. (J. Patinkin/VOA)
Each morning, fishermen in the northern Somali port city of Bosaso pull in their catch of tuna, marlin, and more.
The waters off northern Somalia are some of the richest in Africa. As businessmen and women on the beach haggle over the shining piles of fresh fish, the daily catch looks like a rich haul
But all is not well here for local fishermen. Many of them complain about larger, foreign boats that enter Somali waters, outfishing the locals.
“Now there is illegal fishing, fish stealing, and so on,” explains boat captain Mohammed Elias Abdiqadir. He said such foreign fishing boats come from Iran, while others in Bosaso accused Yemenis of fishing in Somali waters.
“We don’t have a powerful government who can stop these illegal fishermen who are creating problems,” said Abdiqadir.
Foreign boats in Somali waters have been a problem for years. Some of them operate with no license at all. Others buy permits from Somali authorities, though at times under questionable circumstances.
From protectors to pirates.
Women slice fresh fish in thin strips to dry for eventual sale as part of a Food and Agriculture Organization program to boost Somalia’s fishing industry, in late March 2018. (J. Patinkin/VOA)
A decade ago, Somali fishermen took up arms against the foreign boats, hoping to retake their waters from outsiders, but some of the Somali vigilantes then became pirates, hijacking commercial vessels plying the waters off the Horn of Africa.
At one point, pirate gangs were seizing more than 40 vessels per year and holding hundreds of sailors hostage for ransom.
An international naval effort has mostly stamped out the pirate menace, and Somalia has started to build fledgling local navies, including the Puntland Maritime Police Force, which patrols the waters off Bosaso.
But neither has managed to rid the area of foreign boats.
Abdiqani says part of the problem is that the foreign vessels are larger and have better technology than the local crafts, which are mostly small, fiberglass skiffs.
“They fish in the deep ocean, and they have long nets and better tools than us,” he said.
Until the foreign boats are completely gone, many experts say the threat of a return of piracy will remain, as out-of-work young men seek economic opportunities in criminality.
Last year, for instance, pirates launched a string of attacks on commercial vessels off Puntland’s long coastline.
Puntland Maritime Police Force on patrol off the coast of Bossaso in northern Somalia in late March, 2018. The PMPF has been tasked with fighting piracy, illegal fishing, and other criminal activity. (J. Patinkin/VOA)
Somalia’s fledgling fish industry
But the challenges for Somalia’s fishing industry do not only lie offshore.
Fishermen use old fishing technology. Bosaso’s port needs more modern facilities to prepare fish in a sanitary environment to export. And there’s yet to be a strong supply chain for exporting Somali fish abroad.
But a new program by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization hopes to give these parts of Somalia’s fledgling fishing industry a boost.
On the outskirts of Bosaso, women have been trained to process fish meat into a dried fish product to be sold in inland Somalia.
The women, dressed in bright yellow aprons, work on sanitary tables, where they butcher fresh fish steaks and slice them into fine strips to dry.
Despite attracting flies, the bright sun naturally cures and disinfects the flesh.
All the fish the women process have been caught by local youth, who themselves were trained by the FAO in deep-sea fishing techniques, and given larger, better-equipped boats that can reach the most profitable species.
The women receive payment, and also get to take home fresh fish each day to feed their families. They also can stay near home to work, instead of searching for employment in the center of Bosaso town.
Bossaso port, the economic hub of northern Somalia, in late March 2018. (J. Patinkin/VOA)
“This job works for me fine, because my home is here,” explains Daawo Sheikh Mahamoud, who recently started working at the fish processing station. “Before, my kids were neglected and neighbors used to care for them for me, but now I can take care of them while doing the work in the morning.”
Michael Savins, an Australian fisheries and boatbuilding expert who designed the program, says it employs more than 100 people, including fishermen at sea and processors on land. He hopes the number will increase to 500 by the end of this year.
The idea, he explains, is to employ local Somalis throughout the entire value chain, and eventually start selling Somali fish internationally.
“There would be nothing better than the youth from the community catching the fish with good handling and good quality and so forth on board, and landing those fish back into their community for processing,” Savins explained. “Then we’d have a really good benefit, a real holistic approach, for each community, self sustained you might say, with capture, processing, and marketing.”
While Somalia struggles to take control of its waters, programs like this one could help keep Somali youth from going back to piracy.
Amisom camp where everyone carries a gun hare
Source: Daily Nation, Friday May 18, 2018
By FRED MUKINDA
Amisom soldiers patrol a road at Ceeljaale, Somalia, on May 11, 2018. PHOTO | COURTESY
Captain (Dr) Robert Tsimba wears a stethoscope, attending to patients seeking treatment at a military camp in Somalia, but still tightly holds an M4 assault rifle.
At another corner, sergeant James Karanja, the camp’s catechist, sits holding a Bible while the other hand carries an AK-47 rifle.
Evans Wekesa is the camp’s chef and, as he lead cooks in preparing dishes for his comrades, he has a G3 rifle on his back. This is the typical life in an African Union Mission to Somalia (Amisom) camp in Somalia.
In Sector Two, the area where Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) are deployed, there are 16 of them and are known as Forward Operating Bases.
With the headquarters at Dhobley, there are bases in Hosingo, Tabda, Belesqoqani, Afmadhow, Xagar, Abdalle Birole, Kismayu, Busaar, Fafadun and Kuday, among others.
The Nation visited some of the bases and spent days with the soldiers on the frontline.
Brigadier Joachim Ngure Mwamburi, the sector commander, started with a warning:
“The security situation here is fluid and unpredictable. Always wear your helmet and flak jacket to protect yourself from bullets. In case of an attack, you move to the trenches. That is where we seek protection.”
Even when Al-Shabaab terrorists – who Amisom is fighting in Somalia – are not ready for a confrontation, they routinely fire motors and rocket propelled grenades towards the camps in what the military calls “probing attacks”.
One briefing was interrupted after Brigadier Mwamburi received a call on his cell phone.
He is heard barking at the caller on the other end, “basi wachemshwe”, (go ahead, open fire).”
The commander later explains that flash lights were spotted approaching one of the bases under his command.
The camp is guarded round the clock by KDF sentries with mounted machine guns, but every soldier and officers take their weapons to bed, to the dining table and even to the washrooms.
rHw educational programs in Africa can help counter violent extremism
Source: Washington Post, Friday May 18, 2018
Somalia’s capital has been rocked by multiple bomb attacks in the past few months, and a May 6 blast in a border town killed seven Kenyan soldiers. In recent months, a series of bombings left dozens dead or injured.
Most analysts believe that al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda-backed extremist group that has waged an insurgency against the federal government for more than 10 years, is responsible for these attacks.
The recent violence comes in the wake of devastating twin truck bombs that killed hundreds in Mogadishu in October 2017. Despite making gains in security and governance during the past year, Somalia continues to struggle to escape the trap of conflict and instability.
With the United States currently escalating its military presence in Somalia, a major question for the Somali government, U.S. forces and others actors on the ground is how to counter the appeal of violent groups among young people — their common recruits.
This is also a vital question for governments engaged in conflict zones around the world. Some, including Somalia’s leaders, see increasing access to education as a way to address disaffected youth’s frustrations with the status quo and steer them away from armed groups like al-Shabab.
Does this approach work? And if so, does it work everywhere? We set out to explore the common assumption that educational programs will help counter violent extremism.
How we did our research on political violence
Working with the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, Mercy Corps — the global organization for which we work — designed a study to help us understand how secondary education affects young people’s support for political violence. We focused on the Somali Youth Learners Initiative (SYLI), a USAID-funded program implemented by Mercy Corps and other partners.
Across Somalia, the program improved access to secondary education, reaching almost 25,000 young people. SYLI also worked with youth in and outside of school to develop leadership skills and facilitate opportunities to improve their communities through civic engagement activities.
In a new report, we describe how the program — both by itself and in combination with civic engagement activities — changed young people’s attitudes toward opposition groups like al-Shabab. We focused on areas of Somalia previously under the control of armed groups and al-Shabab.
We employed quantitative and qualitative data, surveying 1,220 Somali youth and conducting in-depth interviews with another 40 young people in 2017. We compared students in SYLI-supported schools to out-of-school youth to understand how the program influenced their willingness to support or aid armed opposition groups.
Yes, secondary education did make an impact
We found that the provision of secondary education through SYLI significantly reduced support for violence. In-school youth were half as likely (48.2 percent) to support armed groups as out-of-school youth. Further, the combination of SYLI-supported secondary education and civic engagement activities like advocacy campaigns and community service projects had an even greater effect on reducing support for violence. Our results show students offered civic engagement opportunities were 64.8 percent less likely to support political violence than non-engaged youth.
This study reinforces some of what we learned when we tested the same program in the self-declared independent region of Somaliland a year earlier. In Somaliland the combination of education and civic engagement opportunities had the greatest impact on reducing support for political violence.
However, this new study also highlights the fact that the same program can yield different results. We noted that education reduced support for political violence in South Central Somalia and Puntland, while our survey found that education may increase such support in the relatively peaceful areas like Somaliland.
Why do we see these divergent outcomes?
As it turns out, context matters — even within the same country. In parts of Somalia where the provision of basic services is limited, increasing access to secondary education improved young people’s perceptions of the government. We think this led to a reduction in support for armed opposition groups.
However, in the more developed and stable Somaliland, where people expected their government to provide higher levels of services, it’s a different story. In some cases, the provision of education does not appear to be enough to stop youth from supporting political violence.
These studies have important implications for development programs in conflict-affected countries. The full impact that stability programs have on violence is driven in part by the context in which they are implemented.
In countries emerging from conflict with few, if any, functioning systems, simply investing in basic services such as education can be a quick win for the government — and for donors focused on promoting stability. In the long term, however, this gain in popular support is not enough.
As conflict-affected areas of Somalia eventually stabilize and develop, education alone will likely not address all the grievances that drive youth to support political violence. Education gives young people the chance to gain knowledge and skills, but it also raises expectations and awareness of what citizens are lacking. Young people can grow angry and frustrated if they perceive the government is unable or uninterested in meeting their needs.
What does this mean for development strategies, and international partners? These shifting dynamics require the development of both short- and long-term strategies for managing and reducing violence — or risk exacerbating the situation.
This means investing in basic post-conflict reconstruction, including rebuilding public services, while laying the groundwork for long-term peace and development by improving governance and providing youth with meaningful opportunities.
Beza Tesfaye @bezates87 is a senior researcher at Mercy Corps.
Beth Maclin is a research consultant for Mercy Corps.
Twelve African countries joined U.S. opening of embassy in Jerusalem e
Source: africanews, Tuesday May 15, 2018
By Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban
A dozen African countries were present for the United States’ controversial relocation of its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the Isreali news portal Haaretz reported.
The ceremony was held on Monday with adviser and daughter of president Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, in attendance. It comes about five months after Trump took the decision which was widely condemned by the United Nations and allies of the U.S.
Some of the countries in question had voted against the move in December 2017. Interestingly, the only African country that voted along with the resolution, Togo, was absent.
The twelve countries were: Angola, Cameroon, Congo Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.
Of the twelve, Rwanda, Cameroon, South Sudan abstained in the December 2017 vote whiles the remaining nine voted against the U.S.
The opening of the embassy reignited protests by Palestinians on the Gaza border whiles a heavy Israeli security clampdown led to scores of deaths with thousands injured. South Africa has since withdrawn its ambassador in protest to the crackdown.
Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector it captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move that is not recognised internationally, as its “eternal and indivisible capital”.
Most countries say the status of Jerusalem, a sacred city to Jews, Muslims and Christians – should be determined in a final peace settlement and that moving their embassies now would prejudge any such deal.
Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital
On December 6, 2017; Trump officially announced that the U.S. formally recognised the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and that plans were afoot for their embassy be moved.
World leaders slammed the move calling it a setback for peace efforts between Israel and Palestine and a security risk to the larger Middle East region. The European Union, the United Nations and African Union have all expressed worry over Trump’s move.
The move provoked series of anti-American protests across the Muslim world. Deadly clashes erupted between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza. Somalia, Djibouti, Egypt and other African countries expressed their condemnation.
Qatar pledges support for Somalia amid UAE tensions hare
Source: AFP, Tuesday May 15, 2018
Qatar’s Emir held talks on Monday with the Somali president in Doha and pledged support for the East African country, amid tensions between the two countries and the UAE.
Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani said that the relationship between Qatar and Somalia was one of “brotherhood and mutual respect”.
“Qatar will continue to support the unity, stability, sovereignty and well-being of the people of Somalia,” he wrote on Twitter.
The meeting between the Emir and President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed comes at a particularly sensitive time.
Qatar is fast approaching the first anniversary of an entrenched political dispute, which has seen it isolated by neighbouring former allies including the UAE.
African countries have found themselves in the fallout over the bitter Gulf crisis, with several breaking off ties with Qatar in support for countries which oppose Doha.
Somalia has refused to take sides, although in recent weeks it has had its own disagreements with the UAE rulers.
A row over the management of Berbera port has prompted Mogadishu to ban Dubai-headquartered company DP World from doing business in Somalia.
The decision was followed by Somali authorities intercepting a plane last month chartered by Emirati diplomats, before reportedly confiscating almost $10 million cash
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Ethioians Riding Waves of Hope
Source: WAshington Post
The Washington Post published on 6 May 2018 an article titled “After Years of Unrest, Ethiopians Are Riding an Unlikely Wave of Hope. Will It Last?” by Paul Schemm.
The author argues that new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has ushered in an unlikely wave of hope and even optimism for a country that serves as a linchpin for stability in East Africa.
Saudi to supply oil to fuel-starved Sudan, oil minister says
Sudan has been hit with an acute fuel crisis for weeks now, sending black market prices surging in Khartoum as residents queued outside fuel stations for hours.
In a bid to resolve the crisis, a Sudanese delegation led by Oil Minister Abdul Rahman Osman visited Riyadh last week.
“We returned from Saudi Arabia after negotiations with the Saudi side to supply Sudan with oil for five years,” Osman told reporters at the presidential palace in Khartoum.
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“Sudan will receive 1.8 million tonnes of oil in the first year. After that each year the quantity will be raised by seven per cent.”
The financing of the deal is to be facilitated by Saudi Development Bank, Osman added without giving financial details of the agreement or when the first oil delivery was expected.
The Sudanese presidency in a separate statement said a draft agreement between the two countries had been prepared.
“The agreement will be signed after the two sides complete the financing procedures of the deal,” it said.
Residents in Khartoum have been queueing for hours outside fuel stations since supplies began dwindling in early April, with officials blaming maintenance delays at a key refinery, although foreign currency shortages have also played a role.
The crisis has since escalated despite official pledges to resolve it.
Most fuel stations were receiving less than their allotted quotas of petrol and diesel, with attendants often keeping the outlets shut once they sold their stock.
Farmers too complained they were unable to transport their products to market as hundreds of trucks had been grounded.
The crisis comes amid surging inflation that has triggered sporadic anti-government protests in Khartoum and other cities.
Major foreign policy shift
Sudan’s overall economy has been hit hard, particularly after the south separated from the north in 2011, taking with it about 75 per cent of oil revenues.
As the fuel crisis deepened, Sudanese have taken to social media to criticise Saudi Arabia for not helping Khartoum, especially when hundreds of Sudanese soldiers were fighting as part of a Saudi-led coalition against Huthi rebels in Yemen.
In what is seen as a pressure tactic at a time when the Sudanese delegation led by Osman was set to visit Riyadh, Khartoum even said that it was evaluating its troop deployment in conflict-wracked Yemen.
President Omar al-Bashir deployed troops to Yemen after a major foreign policy shift by Sudan that saw Khartoum break its decades-old ties with Iran and join the Saudi-led coalition.
Somalia embarks on forging a new constitution are
Source: Hiiraan Online
Sunday May 13, 2018
The stage is set for the National Constitutional Convention. SUPPLIED
Mogadishu (HOL) – Over 350 citizens from a wide array of backgrounds converged in Mogadishu on Sunday for the launch of the National Constitutional Convention.
Representatives from the Federal Member States, civil society and private citizens will take part in the constitutional review process in the hopes of producing a new constitution.
However, the absence of Jubaland at the national convention has cast a shadow over the event.
Jubaland’s Minister of Justice Constitutional and Religious Affairs, Aden Ibrahim Aw. Hirsi announced on Friday that Jubaland will not attend the conference.
The new Somali constitution will define how Somalia will be governed post-2020 and will supersede the interim constitution that was ratified in 2012.
The National Constitutional Convention will be going on from May 13 through the 15th
An Ethiopia-backed port is changing power dynamics in the Horn of Africa
Source: QUARTZ, Wednesday May 9, 2018
When Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Ethiopia became landlocked and therefore dependent on its neighbors—especially Djibouti—for access to international markets. This dependency has hampered Ethiopia’s aspiration to emerge as the uncontested regional power in the Horn of Africa.
Recently, however, the ground has been shifting. As we point out in a recent article, Ethiopia has attempted to take advantage of the recent involvement of various Arab Gulf States in the Horn of Africa’s coastal zone to reduce its dependency on Djibouti’s port. The port currently accounts for 95% of Ethiopia’s imports and exports. It has done so by actively trying to interest partners in the refurbishment and development of other ports in the region: Port Sudan in Sudan, Berbera in the Somaliland region of Somalia, and Mombasa in Kenya.
But it is Berbera, in particular, that will prove the most radical in terms of challenging regional power dynamics as well as international law. This is because a port deal involving Somaliland will challenge Djibouti’s virtual monopoly over maritime trade. In addition, it may entrench the de-facto Balkanization of Somalia and increase the prospects of Ethiopia becoming the regional hegemony.
Ethiopia’s regional policy
Ethiopia’s interest in Berbera certainly makes sense from a strategic perspective. It is closest to Ethiopia and will connect the eastern, primarily Somali region of Ethiopia to Addis Ababa. It will also provide a much needed outlet for trade, particularly the export of livestock and agriculture.
The development and expansion of the port at Berbera supports two primary pillars of Ethiopia’s regional policy. The first is maintaining Eritrea’s isolation. The aim would be to weaken it to the point that it implodes and is formally reunited to Ethiopia. Or it becomes a pliant, client state.
The second pillar rests on maintaining the status quo in post-civil war Somalia. Simply put, a weak and fractured Somalia enables Ethiopia to focus on quelling persistent internal security difficulties. It also keeps up pressure on Eritrea.
Ethiopia’s ambitions for Berbera have been hampered by two problems. Firstly the Republic of Somaliland – a de-facto independent state since 1991 – still isn’t recognised internationally. This makes engagement a political and legal headache. Secondly, Ethiopia, doesn’t have the critical resources needed to invest and build a port.
Ethiopia had been trying to get Abu Dhabi and Dubai interested in the Berbera Port for years. It’s latest push was assisted by a number of factors. These included a shift in the UAE’s military focus in Yemen and Ethiopian assurances of more trade and some financing to upgrade the port.
Ethiopia’s diplomatic push – which coincided with developments across the Gulf of Aden – finally got it the result it craved. In May 2016, DP World, a global mega-ports operator, signed an agreement to develop and manage Berbera Port for 30 years.
The Berbera Port deal
It is unlikely that DP World would have signed the deal if it didn’t see some long-term commercial benefit. The deal also includes economic, military and political dimensions.
Economically, for example, there will be investments in Somaliland’s fisheries, transportation and hospitality industry. The UAE will also establish a military installation in Berbera. The base is intended to help the UAE tighten its blockade against Yemen and stop weapons being smuggled from Iran.
Politically, the Berbera Port deal has provoked mixed reactions in Somaliland. There has been some popular anger aimed at Somaliland’s former president, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud aka “Silanyo”, and his family who reportedly benefited personally from it. Anger also stems from inter-clan and sub-clan rivalry over land, particularly in the Berbera area.
But the anger in Somaliland pales in comparison to the reaction in Mogadishu. This is because the
Somaliland government has remained largely isolated internationally – until the port deal.
Somalia Federal Government ministers have publicly challenged the right of Somaliland to enter into official agreements with any country. The Ethiopian-driven deal means that Mogadishu’s claims over the breakaway territory have weakened substantially. The deal means that Somaliland has partially broken the glass ceiling of international recognition by entering into substantive deals with viable business partners and states operating on the global stage. Mogadishu can no longer pretend it controls the government in Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa.
The bottom line is that Ethiopia has engineered access to another port and enhanced its security and strategic economic interests. With the growth in annual volumes of transit cargo, Ethiopia has, for a long time, needed alternative routes from Djibouti.
In addition, Ethiopia has ensured its presence in the running of the port by acquiring a 19% share in the deal.
And by wangling a legally binding agreement between Somaliland and another state, Ethiopia has potentially paved the way for eventual international recognition of Hargeisa.
Ethiopia has also further cemented its hold over Somaliland through a combination of pressure and material incentives. By bringing significant outside investment and recognition, Ethiopia can also increasingly meddle in its internal affairs. This is a conundrum for Hargeisa. It finds itself increasingly emboldened to act independently. Yet it remains constrained by the need to get Addis Ababa’s approval.
As Ethiopia begins to move increasing amounts of goods and services on Somaliland’s new highway to the refurbished port of Berbera, Hargeisa may begin to question key aspects of the port deal.
But one aspect will not be in question: Ethiopia’s rising power and influence over the entire region.
Kenya, Djibouti sign four pacts to deepen trade and bilateral links hare
source: KBC, Wednesday May 9, 2018
Kenya and Djibouti have signed four agreements aimed at boosting trade and deepening bilateral links.
The agreements were signed at State House, Nairobi, where President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh, who is on a three State Visit to Kenya.
The agreements signed included Trade Agreement, MoU on Bilateral Cooperation in the Livestock Sector, Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments and an agreement on visa exemption for holders of diplomatic passports.
The agreements were signed shortly after President Kenyatta and President Guelleh held bilateral talks focusing on trade and security.
President Kenyatta said the partnership that has existed between Kenya and Djibouti has been strong and efforts were being made to make the cooperation more fruitful.
The Head of State, who spoke after holding a private meeting with his guest, said the two nations face the same kind of challenges since they are in a region that has for decades been ravaged by conflicts and modern forms of organised crime like terrorism.
“We have talked about how to strengthen our cooperation and to secure our nations. Both our nations are in a very troubled region and we talked on how to secure the safety and prosperity of our people,” said President Kenyatta.
President Guelleh said Djibouti desires to strengthen its partnership with Kenya in developing the region and making it peaceful.
He said Djibouti and Kenya are working together to make Somalia peaceful to ensure that the security risk that its continued instability poses to the region is eliminated.
“We are in a troubled region where we are confronted by extremism and violence. That is why our militaries are in Somalia to help it regain stability because what happens in Somalia has an immediate impact on all of us,” said President Guelleh. He said Djibouti, like Kenya, is sincere in its desire to make Somalia peaceful.
After the talks, President Kenyatta and President Guelleh, who arrived in the country on Tuesday, witnessed the signing of the agreements.
In their desire to promote greater economic cooperation, the two leaders also oversaw the signing of an agreement which binds both nations to protect private or public investment in each country originating from the other.
Cabinet Secretaries Monica Juma (Foreign Affairs) and Fred Matiangi (Interior and Coordination of National Government) signed the other two agreements.
Deputy President William Ruto and Cabinet Secretaries attended the bilateral meeting with President Guelleh and his delegation.
President Guelleh’s visit comes hot on the heels of the two day State Visit by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali.
The trade agreement will open the door for more business between Kenya and Djibouti as it will act as a facilitation mechanism.
“The Parties, for enhancing and facilitating trade between the two countries, shall grant each other the Most Favored Nation Treatment in all matters relating to trade,” says part of the agreement signed on Kenya’s behalf by Industry, Trade and Cooperatives Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed.
In the bilateral cooperation in the livestock sector, Kenya will work together with Djibouti in expanding the livestock business sector. Kenya will tap the experience of Djibouti in unlocking the potential in business in the livestock sector especially in exports to the Middle East. The two nations will increase trade in livestock and livestock products. The agreement was signed on Kenya’s behalf by Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Mwangi Kiunjuri
Ethiopia gets Lamu land to cut reliance on Port of Djibouti
Source: BUSINESS DAILY, Wednesday May 9, 2018
By GEORGE OMONDI
PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA (LEFT) WITH FIRST LADY MARGARET KENYATTA, ETHIOPIA’S PRIME MINISTER ABIY AHMED ALI AND DEPUTY PRESIDENT WILLIAM RUTO AT STATE HOUSE, NAIROBI. PHOTO | PSCU
Landlocked Ethiopia is set to build an office in Lamu, giving the clearest indication yet of its intention to shift some of its logistics undertakings to the Kenyan coast.
The Kenyan government has committed to set aside some land to enable Ethiopia set up the logistics facility.
“The Kenyan side will facilitate the formal acquisition of land in Lamu Port given to the Ethiopian government,” states a joint communique issued after bilateral talks between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali on Monday.
“The Ethiopian side reiterated its commitment to develop the land for logistics facilitation.”
At the moment, Ethiopia has mainly relies on the Port of Djibouti for sea link to the rest of the world after the 1992 independence of Eritrea cut its Red Sea connection and rendered it landlocked.
Unlike Kenya whose territorial Indian Ocean waters cover about 128,015 square kilometres but does not have a single merchant ship, Ethiopia has more than a dozen state-run seagoing vessels.
Its drive to shift part of its sea-based transport to Kenya implies that a corridor running from Addis Ababa to Lamu must equally be developed urgently. That will allow its traders to move exports to Lamu and ship imports back by trucks and trains.
On Monday, the two leaders committed to the development of Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport corridor (Lapsset) including road network between Isiolo, Moyale through to Addis Ababa as well as the railway from Addis Ababa to Nairobi.
“Both sides agreed to jointly supervise and inspect the Lamu-Garissa-Isiolo-Moyale and Moyale-Hawassa-Addis Ababa road networks,” states the communique.
The leaders committed to expand the border town of Moyale into a joint city to boost socio-economic integration. The Joint Moyale City will host a special economic zone, the two leaders said.
Source: BBC, Monday May 7, 2018
By Tesfalem Araia
Two decades have passed since two of Africa’s poorest countries began the continent’s deadliest border war.
The conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia left tens of thousands dead or injured in the space of just two years.
But despite a peace deal signed in December 2000, the two sides remain on a war footing – their massive armies still facing off.
So what happened 20 years ago to spark Africa’s unfinished war – and what hope is there that it might finally come to an end?
‘Two men fighting over a comb’
The war began on 6 May, 1998, sparked by a battle for control of the border town of Badme – a humble, dusty market town with no apparent value.
It had neither oil nor diamonds, but it did not matter: both Eritrea and Ethiopia wanted it on their side of the border. At the time, the war was described as “two bald men fighting over a comb”.
As the war spread, so did the massive displacement of communities.
“This war destroyed families on both sides,” recalls Kasahun Woldegiorgis, who comes from the Ethiopian town of Adigrat, close to the border.
“We are intermarried across the border and we cannot attend each other’s weddings or funerals,” says Asgedom Tewelde, who comes from Zalambesa, a town once divided in two by the border.
“There was a family from a village called Serha on the Eritrean side of the border and their daughter married someone on the Ethiopian side. Later, after the war, she died, but her family could only see the funeral procession from a hilltop across the border.”
It was not just family ties: the economic impact on the border trading communities was significant too.
“The active commercial activities that we used to see before the war no longer take place,” says Kiflom Gebremedhin, from a border village on the Eritrean side.
The border ruling
The war ended in June 2000, but it was another six months until a peace agreement was signed, establishing the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission.
It was meant to settle the dispute over Badme once and for all. But its “final and binding” ruling 18 months later, awarding Badme to Eritrea, was not accepted by Ethiopia without the preconditions of further negotiations with Eritrea. Eritrea, in turn, refuses to talk to its former ally until the ruling is adhered to.
With neither side budging from their respective positions, peace between them remains elusive.
Border skirmishes continue – either directly, or through rebel groups acting on their behalf. All the while, Badme remains in Ethiopian hands.
And there have been other, bigger implications for the two countries – and the wider world.
Treacherous sea crossing
Eritrea says it needs a constant large army due to the “continuous occupation of Eritrean territories by
Ethiopia” – and it feeds that army with compulsory national service.
However, what was originally designed to last for only 18 months can last indefinitely.
For many of those who don’t want to enlist, the only way out is to flee.
Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika (c) brokered the deal between Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki (left) and then-Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (right) AFP
Today, they crowd into large refugee camps in Ethiopia and Sudan, or risk their lives to trying to reach Europe through the Sahara Desert and over the Mediterranean Sea.
Eritreans make up one of the largest groups attempting to make the crossing, despite the fact many have died, drowning in the treacherous sea, or falling victim to militants and traffickers who control the route.
* 24 May 1993: Eritrean independence from Ethiopia officially declared
* 6 May 1998: Border war beings
* 18 June 2000: Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities signed
* 12 December 2000: Algiers Peace Agreement signed
* 13 April 2002: The Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission delivered its “final and binding” ruling
Eritrea also uses the conflict with Ethiopia to justify suspending the constitution, banning free press and quashing any dissent.
During a crackdown in 2001, many of the editors and journalists of the fledgling private newspapers were detained.
At the same time, prominent leaders of the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) who criticised President Isaias Afewerki’s handling of the war and his reluctance to be accountable, were also detained. Their whereabouts remains a mystery to this day.
Political prisoners never appear before courts and visitations are not permitted. Government officials accuse those detained of endangering the country’s “national security”.
Eritrea is accused by the UN Human Rights Commission for serious violation of human rights violations, including possible crimes against humanity.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia, which is also accused of human rights abuses, appears more concerned with internal political instability than the border town of Badme. It has recently declared a state of emergency, in an attempt to quell protest movements across the country.
But could the stand off over Badme finally be coming to an end?
The newly elected Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, has called for a peaceful resolution of the impasse and extended an olive branch for talks to the Eritreans, who dismissed the offer as similar to those made by previous Ethiopian leaders.
“Peace will indeed be beneficial to the two peoples but obviously, this must be predicated on respect of international law, which Ethiopia continues to flout to-date,” Minister of Information Yemane Gebremeskel said.
There is hope that the road from Ethiopia to Eritrea will one day reopen. AFP
However, the recent visit by Donald Yamamoto, the US acting Assistant Secretary of State, to Eritrea for the first time in a many years has added to the renewed hope. He also travelled to Ethiopia on the same visit.
“The people are demanding peace on both sides and it is good to hear that political leaders are talking of peace now,” Eritrean Kiflom Gebremedhin says.
“I am sure the people will put pressure on their governments and secure peace and return to their normal relations.”
Over the border in Ethiopia, Kasahun Woldegiorgis is also hopeful.
“We believe this road [to Asmara] will not remain closed for ever,” he says.
Somalia calls for international cooperation to stop illegal charcoal trade are
Source: UN Environment, Monday May 7, 2018
Kenya Defence Forces and Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers take part in a joint-patrol at a charcoal depository formerly under the control of Al Shabaab militants in Burgabo, south of Kismayu in Somalia December 14, 2011. REUTERS
Mogadishu, 7 May 2018 – At the opening of a two-day, UN-supported conference on charcoal in Mogadishu, the Federal Government of Somalia has called for international, African and Gulf States cooperation in halting the illegal export of charcoal from the country. The export of charcoal from Somalia has been banned, both by a 2012 United Nations Security Council resolution and by the Somali Government, due to its destructive effect on the environment and its exacerbation of conflict and humanitarian crises.
An estimated 8.2 million trees were cut down for charcoal in Somalia between 2011 and 2017, increasing land degradation, food insecurity and vulnerability to flooding and drought. Over 80 percent of charcoal produced in Somalia is exported to Gulf States and neighbouring countries. Illegal trade in charcoal is recognised as a key contributor to insecurity in Somalia, providing a major source of funding for militias, terrorist groups, and other actors linked to conflict, who illegally tax exports.
In his opening address, the Deputy Prime Minister of Somalia, Mahdi Mohamed Guled, reaffirmed the Somali government’s commitment to halting illegal trade of charcoal, and providing alternative livelihood and energy options. He also called for urgent action and support from the international community and countries that are importing charcoal.
“We need a holistic response to address the issues of charcoal in Somalia. Both the demand and supply side have to be tackled – to do this we need cooperation to implement the UN Security Council Resolution and ensure the environmental, economic and human losses that happen because of illegal charcoal trade are curbed,” said the Deputy Prime Minister.
“The environmental destruction brought on by the charcoal trade contributes to drought, flooding, the loss of livelihoods and increase in food insecurity. Together with conflict, this exacerbates the humanitarian situation in Somalia,” said the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Peter de Clercq. “But due to high levels of poverty in Somalia and lack of opportunities, many are forced to turn to unsustainable and illegal livelihoods, such as charcoal production. The people of this country deserve better”.
Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, UN Environment Regional Director for Africa, said regional partnership is key to stopping the unsustainable production, use and export of charcoal in Somalia. “UN Environment and its partners are supporting the Government of Somalia to develop sound policy frameworks to support the ban and find alternatives to charcoal,” she said.
Participants at the event, which concludes on Tuesday 8 May, are expected to develop a concrete road map for action, including enforceable regional policies, to halt charcoal trade, as well as its unsustainable production and use within Somalia. The high-level summit is supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Environment, and the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), with funding from Sweden, the European Union and Italy.
Ethiopia, Kenya leaders vow to pursue peace in Somalia, South Sudan
Source: africanews, Tuesday May 8, 2018
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Monday concluded a two-day state visit to Kenya during which he held talks with his counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta at State House in Nairobi.
At the heart of deliberations was bilateral and historical agreements between the two nations. Issues of prime importance included security, trade, tourism and economic cooperation.
Somewhere in the deliberations was the issue of regional security as affects Somalia and South Sudan. A communique issued by the Kenyan presidency stated plans by both governments to secure peace in South Sudan and to combat the threat of Al-Shabaab in Somalia.
On South Sudan, the communique read: “The two leaders expressed their deep disappointment at the slow pace of progress in ongoing efforts to restore peace in South Sudan. In pledging their full commitment to the IGAD’s mediation efforts they urged the leaders of South Sudan to place the interests of their people above their own in order to give peace a chance.
It continued with Somalia where it noted the continued potency of Al-Shabaab and the lack of support for the African Union Mission (AMISOM). “Both leaders noted that Al Shabaab continues to pose significant threat to Somalia and the region. In this regard, they expressed concern at the continued lukewarm international support for Somalia, in particular the inadequate and unpredictable funding for AMISOM, which poses a threat to gains made thus far.
“In this regard, the two leaders committed to continue lobbying for adequate and sustainable support to AMISOM, including provision of force multipliers for the mission in Somalia, as well as training for the Somalia security forces. The leaders expressed deep concern at the effects of external interests that are aimed at further destabilizing Somalia,” it added.
Kenya and Ethiopia, despite their own security headaches, are seen as ‘big boys’ in a turbulent Horn of Africa region. Kenya suffers a spillover of Al Shabaab attacks with the latest claiming the lives of nine soldiers.
Ethiopia on the other hand, only gained a semblance of internal peace after over two years of anti-governments protests riled the country. Addis Ababa has routinely claimed that neighbouring Eritrea was backing anti-peace elements, claims Asmara has rubbished repeatedly.
Ethiopia and Kenya are seen as major allies of the west especially in the fight against terrorism. Both countries have troops in Somalia helping in the fight against Al Shabaab.
Communique of the 769th meeting of the Peace and Security Council on the Somalia Transition Plan are
Source African Union, Thursday May 3, 2018
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – The Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU), at its 769thmeeting, held on 30 April 2018, received a briefing on the Somalia Transition Plan, and adopted the following decision:
1. Takes note of the statement made by the Acting Director for Peace and Security Department, Dr. Admore Kambudzi, on behalf of the Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ambassador Smail Chergui. Council also takes note of the presentations by the Minister of Planning, Investment and Economic Development of the Federal Government of Somalia, H.E. Gamal Hassan and the National Security Advisor of the Federal Government of Somalia, Mr. Abdisaid Ali, as well as of the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and Head of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), Ambassador Francisco Madeira on the Somalia Transition Plan. Council further takes note of the statements made by the representatives of Ethiopia, in its capacity as Chair of IGAD and African Member of the UN Security Council (A3), the United Nations (UN), and the European Union (EU);
2. Recalls its previous communiques and press statements on the situation in Somalia and on the activities of the AMISOM, particularly Communiqué [PSC/PR/COMM.(DCCLIII)] adopted at its 753rd meeting held on 15 February 2018, in which Council was briefed on the political stabilization process in Somalia, as well as on the activities and exit strategy of AMISOM;
3. Commends the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) for finalizing the Somalia Transition Plan, with the support of the leadership of AMISOM, which demonstrates the ownership and readiness of the FGS to take over primary security responsibility for the country.
4. Endorses the Somalia Transition Plan, which includes a timeframe for the transition of security responsibilities from AMISOM to the Somali National Security Forces, as well as their capacity building. In this regard, Council expresses AU’s commitment to support the FGS and appeals to all Somali stakeholders to fully commit themselves towards the effective implementation of the Transition Plan with a view to stabilizing the country and restoring lasting peace;
5. Emphasizes that the Somalia Transition Plan is a realistic and comprehensive document which forms the basis for channeling collective efforts and undertake further planning so as to consolidate AMISOM’s gains and make progress towards the take-over of primary security responsibilities by the FGS. Council stresses that the full implementation of the Somalia Transition Plan is dependent on fully addressing the challenges raised by the Operational Readiness Assessment of regional forces, completion of discussions on the Somali troop generation, training, integration, accommodation, equipment and logistical support for the tasks related to the transition;
6. Recognizes the support provided by the AU Member States and the partners to the FGS and calls for provision of the requisite funding support for the implementation of the Transition Plan. In this regard, Council emphasizes the urgent need for streamlined and coordinated capacity building for the Somalia National Security Forces, particularly the training support provided to the Army, with clear distribution of roles and responsibilities among stakeholders, including AMISOM;
7. Stresses the importance of an orderly and gradual transfer of security responsibilities from AMISOM to the Somalia National Security Forces in order not to compromise the gains already made and foster conditions conducive for the full implementation of the Transition Plan;
8. Emphasizes that the Transition Plan should be a living document that should be regularly monitored and reviewed, and upon need, adjusted in light of emerging circumstances and prevailing security and political situations on the ground. In this regard, Council requests the FGS and AMISOM to regularly brief the Council on progress made on key milestones of the Transition Plan;
9. Expresses its deep concern over the long running humanitarian crisis in Somalia, which has now been aggravated by the over flooding of the Shabele River which has caused destruction, displacement and untold suffering to the people. In this respect, Council appeals to all AU Member States and partners to urgently extend humanitarian support to the population in need;
10. Commends the efforts deployed by the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and Head of AMISOM and reiterates AU’s tribute to the AMISOM Troop /Police Contributing Countries for their courage and sacrifice in the efforts to restore peace and security in Somalia. Furthermore, Council stresses the need for continued unwavering and coordinated action against all spoilers who obstruct peace in Somalia;
11. Welcomes the recent talks aimed at the full operationalization of the AU-Somalia Taskforce and reiterates its importance as a mechanism for enhancing bilateral cooperation and engagements between the FGS and the AMISOM at all levels, particularly as part of the implementation of the Somalia Transition Plan;
12. Looks forward to the outcome of the High Level Security Meeting on Somalia to be held in Brussels, Belgium, on 2 May 2018, where the FGS will present the pilot projects within the framework of the Somalia Transition Plan;
Investigators believe ICRC security guard played crucial role in nurse kidnapping are
Source: Hiiraan Online
Thursday May 3, 2018
Security officials identified the missing aid worker as Sonja Nientiet, a German national. PHOTO: FACEBOOK
Mogadishu (HOL) – The Somali government said that it has made headway in the investigation of the ICRC nurse who was kidnapped from the ICRC compound on Wednesday evening.
Interior Ministry spokesperson Abdiaziz Ali Ibrahim announced that they have identified one of the kidnappers as Mohamud Mohamed Alas.
Security officials have also identified the missing aid worker as Sonja Nientiet, a German national.
Investigators believe that Alas, who worked as a security guard at the ICRC compound, had intimate knowledge of the compound layout and security measures and used this knowledge to facilitate the kidnapping.
The ministry spokesman theory seems to corroborate with eyewitness accounts from Red Cross workers told media on Wednesday that the gunmen easily evaded the compound’s security guards and successfully snuck the nurse out of a back entrance and into a waiting vehicle.
Ibrahim said that an extensive manhunt is underway to save the nurse and bring her captors to justice.
He mentioned that the vehicle that was used in the kidnapping is now in police custody.
The vehicle investigators believed was used in the kidnapping of a German nurse working with the ICRC. SUPPLIED
A LinkedIn profile for Sonja Nientiet with extensive employment history with the ICRC gives us a glimpse of her professional career. She is a career humanitarian aid worker with postings in Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“I have a strong believe [sic] in the Human Rights, which is why I have chosen to change my focus from nursing in Germany to international humanitarian aid,“ reads her LinkedIn bio.
In Somalia, aid workers and journalists have been targeted in the past by armed gangs or Al-Shabaab militants and held for ransom
Can Ethiopia and Eritrea make peace? hare
Source: The Economist, Friday May 4, 2018
Twenty years after a pointless war over a town no one had heard of, Ethiopia ponders rapprochement
“LIKE Sarajevo, 1914,” said the late Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi, of the first gunshots fired on May 6th 1998. “An accident waiting to happen.” Neither he nor his counterpart in neighbouring Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, imagined that a light skirmish at Badme, a border village of which few had heard, could spiral into full-scale war. But two years later about 80,000 lives had been lost and more than half a million people forced from their homes.
No land changed hands. Two decades on, Ethiopia still occupies the disputed territories, including Badme, having refused to accept the findings of a UN boundary commission. But the conflict’s miserable legacy persists. Thousands of troops still patrol the frontier. Centuries of trade and intermarriage abruptly ceased. Ethiopia lost access to Eritrea’s ports. Eritrea lost its biggest trading partner and retreated into isolationism. It has been on a war footing ever since.
But it is not so lonely these days. On April 22nd Donald Yamamoto, America’s most senior diplomat in Africa, visited Asmara, the capital—the first such visit in over a decade. Eritrea has been sanctioned by the UN since 2009, in part for allegedly arming jihadists in neighbouring Somalia. But a panel of experts appointed by the UN Security Council found no evidence of arms transfers and advocates lifting the embargo. America sounds open to the idea. Some reckon sanctions could be removed this year.
Many in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, are also mulling a change of course. With the appointment last month of a new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, there is an opportunity for fresh thinking. Abiy, who was an intelligence officer during the war, promised in his inaugural speech to make peace with Eritrea.
He may have more luck than his predecessors. In the years after the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) seized power in 1991, its policy towards Eritrea was dominated by the Tigrayan faction of the ruling coalition. Tigray shares a border with Eritrea and its people suffered heavily during the war. Abiy’s Oromo faction comes with less baggage.
But any rapprochement would almost certainly require withdrawal from Badme. This would be hard to sell in parts of Ethiopia. And Abiy would need something in return, such as access to Eritrea’s ports, which Isaias has never shown much interest in offering. Moreover, the threat from Ethiopia allows him to keep smothering democracy at home and maintaining a huge army. “Making peace would be the end of him,” says an Eritrean refugee who recently arrived in Addis Ababa. “Why would he?”
Exclusive: Massive military base buildup suggests the U.S. shadow war in Somalia is only getting bigger
Exclusive: Massive military base buildup suggests the U.S. shadow war in Somalia is only getting bigger are
Source: VICE, Friday May 4, 2018
By Christina Goldbaum
Somali soldiers are seen during a target practice held by Turkish Armed Forces at Turkish Military Training Centre in Mogadishu, Somalia on January 15, 2018. (Photo by Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOGADISHU, Somalia — The U.S. military is dramatically expanding its operations at a former Soviet air strip in Somalia, constructing more than 800 beds at the Baledogle base, VICE News has learned. The construction at the secretive base marks the latest example of America’s growing and controversial shadow war in Africa.
Baledogle’s expansion is one part of what appears to be a massive U.S. military infrastructure development project in the Horn of Africa country that will see at least six new U.S. outposts built this year, according to multiple defense contractors who spoke to VICE News.
The buildup coincides with an aggressive escalation by U.S. forces in their fight against al Qaida-linked al-Shabaab. U.S. Africa Command (known as AFRICOM) now has more than 500 U.S. military personnel in Somalia, according to a spokeswoman, a dramatic increase from 2016, when AFRICOM only acknowledged 50 American troops on the ground.
And since January 2017, U.S. forces have conducted at least 48 airstrikes in Somalia, compared to 14 in 2016 and 11 in 2015, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a London-based watchdog organization.
Access to Baledogle is highly restricted, but American contractors and Somali security officials with knowledge of the project told VICE News the construction work began last June, soon after Somalia officially declared war on the insurgency group al-Shabaab. AFRICOM wouldn’t comment on specific base sizes, but it confirmed that Somalia now has the third-largest concentration of U.S. DOD personnel on the continent, after Djibouti and Niger.
Baledogle — or “B-dog” as it’s colloquially referred to by the Americans in Somalia — has long been a forward operating base on the plains of Southern Somalia, a bumpy, 40-minute propeller plane ride from Mogadishu or a days-long drive through terrain littered with IEDs. Until recently just a few dozen American personnel worked in secrecy there alongside African Union Peacekeepers and Somali National Army Special Forces.
But over the past year, yellow Caterpillar excavators and compactors have flooded the grounds and rickety secondhand trucks carrying petrol and equipment have bumbled their way daily into the base’s gates. Mounds of red earth have been flattened and tan tents erected in their place.
According to the scope of work seen by VICE News, the Department of Defense funded the construction of at least 208 of these beds through the U.S. Army’s Logistical Civil Augmentation Program. The other 600 beds are being constructed under the Department of State’s Africa Peacekeeping Program, according to one contractor with knowledge of the project.
“The size of the Baledogle has doubled in the last year. There are many more Americans here now, and planes are coming in every day to the base,” one Somali soldier stationed at the base said on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press.
Military leaders have kept a tight lid on U.S. activity in Somalia, but the recent flood of American resources into the country suggests a deepening involvement beyond the counterterror mission against al-Shabaab. Increasingly, experts and contractors familiar with military activities say, the U.S. is setting its sights on building up Somalia as another key strategic location for American military activity in Africa and the Middle East.
Somali soldiers patrol on the scene of the explosion of a truck bomb in the center of Mogadishu, on October 15, 2017. (Photo credit should read MOHAMED ABDIWAHAB/AFP/Getty Images)
An explosive escalation
Last year, the Trump administration removed several Obama-era restrictions on airstrikes, including interagency vetting prior to each strike and a requirement that every target must pose a direct threat to American lives. Trump also designated parts of Somalia as “areas of active hostilities,” meaning that U.S. Special Operations Forces now have the authority to go on the offensive to target members of al-Shabaab and ISIS.
Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, the head of AFRICOM, told lawmakers in March that even though his forces had “turned up the heat in the last few months” in their fight against al-Shabaab, the U.S. was gearing up for a long fight ahead.
“It’s going to be slow, there is no doubt about it,” Waldhauser said. “I’ve said on several occasions you measure progress in Somalia by eighths of an inch, not by yardsticks or rulers.”
Waldhauser’s mandate grants him relative freedom to achieve those goals. AFRICOM conducts its counterterror operations across the continent under Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), the congressional legislation passed in the wake of 9/11 that grants the military sweeping power in its war on terror. And in Somalia, the U.S. military has been careful to frame its mission under its broad definition of counterterror, claiming that al-Shabaab leaders have strong links to al Qaida as the reason for going after the terror group. But recent al-Shabaab defectors have cast doubts on the extent to which al-Shabaab maintains ties to al Qaida today, and the threat the group poses outside of Somalia.
“Al Qaida offered us strategic advice, media advice, and technical approaches, but many of the the al Qaida officials in charge of working with us have been killed in Yemen, so the link is weaker now,” one recent mid-level defector told VICE News.
The same post–9/11 authorization has been used to justify the expanding presence of U.S. Special Operations Forces across Africa. In 2006, just 1 percent of all U.S. commandos overseas were deployed to Africa. But by 2017, it jumped to 17 percent, meaning there are more U.S. Special Operators on the continent than anywhere else in the world outside the Middle East. Today these operators are carrying out almost 100 missions at any given time in at least 20 African countries, according to an internal military report uncovered by VICE News last year.
To support these troops, the U.S. has quietly been building a series of outposts across Africa. AFRICOM has long maintained that its base in Djibouti, Camp Lemmonier, which is home to roughly 4,000 U.S. personnel, is the only permanent forward operating base on the continent, yet in April 2017 it admitted to having 46 U.S. outposts in Africa, 15 of which are designated “enduring locations.”
The most well-known outpost in this expansion is the new $110 million American drone base currently being built in Agadez, Niger, though it attracted attention only after the deaths of four U.S. Special Operations in the country last year. Niger Air Base 201 is expected to be up and running by 2019, when it will be home to fighter jets and MQ-9 reaper drones with surveillance and striking capabilities that can reach a number of West and North African countries. Currently 800 U.S. military personnel are deployed to Niger, where they are fighting al Qaida and the Islamic State group.
U.S. Air Force officer passes in front of a MQ-9 Reaper drone in Afghanistan. MQ-9 reaper drones, which have surveillance and striking capabilities, are expected to feature heavily in the U.S. military’s operations on the African continent. (REUTERS/Omar Sobhani)
AFRICOM’s primary mission is to support local forces in their fight against al-Shabaab, Waldhauser said. “The engagements of the operations are conducted primarily by the partner force, with our support in a background role,” Waldhauser told lawmakers recently.
But in practice, these forces rely heavily on U.S. Special Operators in conceiving, planning, and carrying out operations, casting doubt on their ability to work without U.S. support. This sort of dynamic has courted controversy for AFRICOM. Last year a Navy SEAL was killed by al-Shabaab while “assisting partner forces,” according to AFRICOM. And months later, four Special Forces soldiers were killed while providing “advice and assistance” to local forces in Niger.
This is to be expected when working alongside local partners, said Luke Hartig, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council during the Obama administration. “Anywhere that we’re engaged in these operations, their sustainability and the ability of partner forces to operate independently is often questioned, and often we don’t have a positive assessment of their ability to do that,” Hartig told VICE News.
And when it comes to Somalia, the U.S. is deeply involved with many partner forces. Today, U.S. operators are training the Somali National Army’s special forces known as Danab and the Somali National Intelligence Security (NISA) known as Gaashaan and Waran. The latter two groups, which also receive training from the CIA, have grown significantly in recent years, VICE News has learned, rousing alarm among local officials.
Waran has grown to over 300 agents, while Gaashaan now counts roughly 400. That’s a significant increase from 2010, when 40 men and three officers from the Somali National Army were taken to the U.S. to be trained as a quick-reaction force that could respond to al-Shabaab attacks in Mogadishu.
Somali security officials told VICE News that both forces’ mandate has expanded along with their ranks. According to those officials, Gaashaan is now part of a secretive unit known as Task Force, which targets high-value al-Shabaab members. This goes far beyond the forces stated mission of guarding NISA bases. In fact, Gaashaan agents are so closely managed by American forces that they only leave American quarters inside Mogadishu’s green zone for the Somali weekend, these officials said.
The U.S. has similarly expanded the ranks of Danab into several battalions operating across the country. Somali officials told VICE News that Danab is now composed of several battalions and is split into two units: the “Counter Terrorism Unit” based in Baledogle, which conducts operations primarily with the Marines; and the “Mechanized Unit” based in Mogadishu, which conducts operations with Special Operations Command Forward, an American joint Special Operations Command.
Pro Al-Shabaab demonstrators attend a protest against the burning of the Koran, the Islamic holy book, at southern Mogadishu?s main stadium, September 15, 2010. (REUTERS/Omar Faruk)
Both forces have been instrumental in U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Somalia, but their growing ranks is stirring concern. Somali security officials and politicians question their loyalty to and reliance on the U.S. military — perhaps over the Somali federal government, which, after decades of civil war and destabilization resulting from the al-Shabaab insurgency, has readily accepted American military support to fight the terror group no matter the terms.
Multiple former Somali security and political officials described a power dynamic in which American officials can threaten to withhold funding or push for the firing of Somali officials who challenge their authority. They also sometimes use U.S.-trained Somali forces without the approval or oversight of their Somali counterparts.
“The power relationship is one that favors the Americans; they have the upper hand, they have the bargaining chip to do whatever they want to do,” former Somali Internal Security Minister Abdirisak Omar Mohamed told VICE News.
AFRICOM insisted that Somalia’s government maintained control over their respective forces. “Command and control of Somali National Army (SNA) units is the responsibility of the Federal Government of Somalia, and it has has unilateral discretion to manage personnel within the SNA through their own chain of command,” AFRICOM spokeswoman Samantha Reho told VICE News.
Waldhauser has said that the goal of the joint U.S.-Somali military activity is to disrupt al-Shabaab operations and thereby create space for state-building necessary to lasting security Somalia. But without similar investment in political solutions, it’s unclear what long-term results increased military investment can yield.
“Al-Shabaab is still the most viable alternative to the government,” said Tricia Bacon, a former State Department counterterrorism expert currently researching Somalia. Al-Shabaab remains dominant in much of Southern Somalia, and as long as the group continues to provide public goods and services, she says, their operations may be disrupted but “the source of the group’s strength is still as strong as ever.”
With African Union Peacekeepers planning to withdraw from Somalia by 2020, U.S. forces and their Somali counterparts are expected to continue playing a critical role in providing security throughout the country. Yet security officials question Somalia’s ability to secure the country on its own, and worry the task will fall on the U.S. military and its already overstretched special operators.
The looming possibility of a yearslong quagmire has earned Somalia a nickname among military officials and locals: “People call Somalia Africa’s Afghanistan,” said one State Department contractor.