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Locust plague devastates crops in the Horn of Africa

Locust plague devastates crops in Horn of Africa

JANUARY 17, 2020 / 1:43 PM / UPDATED 5 HOURS AGO

Source: Reyters, 17 January 2020

JIGJIGA, Ethiopia (Reuters) – Ethiopian farmer Ahmed Ibrahim batted empty water bottles at a swarm of desert locusts the size of his palms that were devouring his field of khat – the mildly narcotic leaf that is his family’s main source of income.

A Samburu man attempts to fend-off a swarm of desert locusts flying over a grazing land in Lemasulani village, Samburu County, Kenya January 17, 2020. REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi

“We have nothing else to sell at the market. How will I feed my eight children?” he asked helplessly, shouting over the sound of the insects as his children chased them with a yellow headscarf and a stick.

The locusts devoured Ibrahim’s small grazing plot as his donkeys brayed anxiously and goats scrambled to eat the remaining foliage.

Scenes like this are happening across the Horn of Africa, where swarms of desert locusts have damaged tens of thousands of hectares so far, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

“These infestations represent a major threat to food security in Kenya and across the entire Horn of Africa, which is already reeling from floods and droughts,” said Bukar Tijani, FAO’s Assistant Director General, calling the swarms “vast and unprecedented”.

Breeding is continuing on both sides of the Red Sea, in Sudan and Eritrea and in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the FAO said.

The swarms spread from Ethiopia and Somalia into eastern and northern Kenya last week, threatening food production and the economy, Kenya’s then-agriculture minister said, before being fired in a cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday.

Kenya began aerial spraying in the north on Jan. 4 to head off the invasion.

Kenyan media showed police shooting bullets and teargas at an oncoming swarm as residents banged on buckets and hooted car horns to try to frighten the insects.

A farmers’ association in Kenya’s northern Laikipia area said it was planning aerial spraying of pesticides to combat the worst locust plague since 1954. The FAO estimated one swarm in Kenya to be 40 km wide by 60 km long (25 by 40 miles)

“These things are in their millions and will eat all the vegetation here. Our animals will not have anything to feed on,” said Peter Learpanai, a herdsman in the northern Samburu region who was flapping his jacket at a cloud of the insects that had descended on his grazing land.

“The government needs to get serious about fighting them.”

Additional reporting by Maggie Fick and Njeri Mwangi; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Katharine Houreld and Giles Elgood

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Shabab militants from Somalia may have received help from Kenyans for deadly Manda Bay attack

Shabab militants from Somalia may have received help from Kenyans for deadly Manda Bay attack


Source: Military Times, Friday January 17, 2020
By Diana Stancy Correll

In this photo taken Aug. 26, 2019 and released by the U.S. Air Force, airmen from the 475th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron conduct a flag-raising ceremony, signifying the change from tactical to enduring operations, at Camp Simba, Manda Bay, Kenya. (Staff Sgt. Lexie West/U.S. Air Force via AP)

U.S. Africa Command officials believe that al-Shabab militants from Somalia crossed the border into Kenya to conduct an attack on U.S. and Kenyan forces earlier this month in Manda Bay — with the assistance of facilitators within Kenya.

“We assess that these are al-Shabab coming out of Somalia, but with the support of Kenyan facilitators and potential Kenyan aspirants of al-Shabab,” U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Gregory Hadfield, AFRICOM deputy director of intelligence, told reporters Thursday.

“We also assess that after the attack, they’re continuing to make their way back into Somalia as well,” he added.

Army Spc. Henry Mayfield Jr. and two U.S. Department of Defense contractors were killed in the attack on Manda Bay, which is currently under investigation. Although the incident coincided with tensions between the U.S. and Iran, the command previously said they believe al-Shabab’s actions were not related.

“I can’t say with fact what their motivation was, but I can speculate that it’s tied to a false media campaign and tied to recruiting, and tied to anytime they can attack a U.S. anything, anywhere, they will,” U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, AFRICOM director of operations, told reporters.Hours after Hadfield and Gayler spoke, AFRICOM announced it had conducted an airstrike against al-Shabab in Somalia. The command said initial reports indicate two militants were killed in that strike, and no civilian casualties.

AFRICOM spokesman Air Force Col. Chris Karns said that al-Shabab has a tendency to “exaggerate” in their communication as they attempt to recruit and weaken the relationships between the U.S. and African partners. He noted the violent extremist group inserts false narratives and statements into the materials they release.

For example, al-Shabab cautioned African forces after the attack that partner with the U.S. that U.S. troops would desert them “when the situation gets difficult” — similar to what the U.S. did to the Syrian Kurds after hundreds of U.S. troops vacated Syria in October. Roughly 500 to 600 U.S. troops do remain in Syria.

“That’s primarily just part of the propaganda, part of the discussion that they want to see happen,” Hadfield said. “Al-Shabab wants U.S. and other partner forces to be out of Somalia to give them a better opportunity to continue their violence, to continue to have a strong hold within the region.”

Gayler echoed similar sentiments.

“It just probably solidifies the fact that what we’re doing in Somalia is important and is effective because, if it wasn’t, al-Shabab wouldn’t feel the need to message against us,” Gayler said.

Command officials said al-Shabab has the intent to attack U.S. targets, including the U.S. homeland, but military officials expect they do not currently have the capacity to conduct such an attack.

“We assess, based on the persistent pressure that we provide in Somalia, they lack that immediate capability to do that simply because of the pressure applied in Somalia on them now,” Gayler said.

There are roughly 5,000 to 7,000 al-Shabab militants in Somalia, according to the command.

Karns previously told Military Times AFRICOM conducted 63 airstrikes against violent extremist organizations in 2019 — an increase from the 47 conducted in 2018, and the 35 conducted in 2017.

AFRICOM has already conducted multiple airstrikes against al-Shabab in Somalia this month, most recently on Jan. 16.

The Manda Bay attack comes amid reports that the Department of Defense is reevaluating U.S. troops presence in Africa. But the Pentagon will call the final shots on any reduction of U.S. troops in Africa — although no final decisions have been made yet on the matter, according to AFRICOM officials.

“What the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the broader DoD are doing is nothing more than an assessment of globally aligning resources to the National Defense Strategy,” Gayler said.

While French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday during a press conference it would be “bad news for us” if the U.S. cut back its presence in Africa, Gayler stressed that the U.S. would seek input from allies and others regarding troop reallocation from the region.

“Though predecisional, I’m very confident that any decision that’ll be made would certainly be in consultation and coordination with our European allies and others, to include the broader U.S. government as well,” Gayler said.

France has approximately 4,500 troops in West Africa, and Gayler said it was “impossible to overstate” the support the French provide in the region to combat terrorism while backing U.S. troops also stationed there. U.S. troops in Africa have primarily focused on quashing the Islamic State and al-Qaida-linked militants like al-Shabab.

On Monday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley told Agence France-Presse the U.S. was eyeing various options to redistribute troops in Africa in an attempt to boost readiness in the continental U.S., or transfer them to the Pacific region.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has also repeatedly stressed that China is the Pentagon’s top priority, and said last month that the Pentagon was examining multiple areas of operations to see assess potential adjustments in the U.S. footprint abroad.

AFRICOM emphasized decisions involving troop presence were up to the Pentagon and Esper, and added other combatant commands were also under scrutiny.

“It’s not just AFRICOM that’s going to go through this review. It’s all of them,” Gayler said.

According to a New York Times report from Dec. 24, U.S. officials familiar with the discussions said possible options on the table include pulling several hundred U.S. troops from Niger, Chad and Mali. Another option officials claim has been floated is cutting assistance to French forces in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, the Times reported.

Meanwhile, terrorist activity in the Sahel region has spiked. For example, the United Nations Special Representative and Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, said Jan. 8 that more than 4,000 deaths stemming from terrorist attacks were reported in 2019. That’s five times the number reported in 2016.

“I would think that if you have a problem that’s potentially growing, and you do less, it’s not going to be helpful. That’s logic,” Gayler said.

 

Ethiopian Airlines to start building new $5 bln airport this year – CEO

Ethiopian Airlines to start building new $5 bln airport this year – CEO


Source: Reuters, Thursday January 16, 2020

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam attends the Fortune Global Forum in Paris, France November 19, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopian Airlines will start constructing a new $5 billion airport later this year, its chief executive officer was quoted as saying on Wednesday, as the rapidly-expanding carrier outgrows capacity at its current base in Addis Ababa.

The airport, which will cover an area of 35 square km, will be built in Bishoftu, a town 39 km south east of the capital, and have the capacity to handle 100 million passengers a year, the state-run Ethiopian News Agency quoted Tewolde Gebremariam as saying.

“Bole Airport is not going to accommodate us; we have a beautiful expansion project. The airport looks very beautiful and very large but with the way that we are growing, in about three or four years we are going to be full,” Tewolde said.

Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa has a passenger capacity of about 19 million passengers annually.Tewolde noted that the price tag of the new airport was higher than the $4 billion cost of building the still-to-be-completed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile, with the projected passenger numbers topping those at Dubai’s international airport

He did not give details of how the construction would be funded, nor who would build the new airport.

The Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation quoted Tewolde as saying construction will start in the next six months.

State-owned Ethiopian Airlines, which competes with large Middle East carriers to connect long-haul passengers, has built a patchwork of African routes from its hub in Addis Ababa to fly customers towards expanding Asian markets.

It has 116 aircraft in its fleet and its net profit rose to $260 million in its 2018/19 financial year from $207.2 million a year earlier.

Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

 

Somaliland government launches mobile platform for salary payments

Somaliland government launches mobile platform for salary payments

Source: Hiiraan Online, Tuesday January 14, 2020

 

HARGEISA (HOL) – Government employees in Somaliland will now receive their salaries through their mobile phones following the launch of an electronic payment platform Monday.

Somaliland vice president Abdirahman Abdilahi Ismail (Saylihi) said the launch of the service marked was remarkable step in moving governance online.

“To move the government online is also a positive step, and congratulations to the officials of the Central Bank, the Ministry of Finance and the human resources agency,” Saylihi said.

Following the launch of the E-Shilling platform, employees will now be able to receive their dues in time and there will be more transparency, Central Bank governor Ibrahim Bagdhadi said, a view echoed by Somaliland Labour Organisation chairman Farhan Haybe.

“The program provides paid government employees with direct access to individual mobile phone and monthly pay anywhere. E-Shilling promotes good governance and accountability,

eliminates ghost workers, reduces employee turnover, and allows state employees to direct acces to banks such as SL Bank, Premier Bank, Salaam Bank and Dahabshiil Bank so that they can borrow money from the fund as the equivalent of their wages deducted in monthly installment,” said Haybe.

Central Bank governor Ibrahim Bagdhadi said all employees will now be required to open accounts at the Central Bank which will be linked to their mobile phones through the E-Dahab platform powered by Somtel telecom.

Prior to the launch of the service, government employees received salaries in cash form causing delays especially for those in remote areas.

DP World wins ruling against Djibouti over seized port

DP World wins ruling against Djibouti over seized port


Source; AP, Wednesday January 15, 2020

In this 2009 file photo, two employees of DP World supervise uploading the containers at the Jebel Ali port terminal 1 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. DP World says it has won another arbitration ruling against Djibouti over the African country’s seizure of a container terminal managed by the Dubai-based global port operator.  KAMRAN JEBREILI / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — DP World said Tuesday it has won another arbitration ruling against Djibouti over the African country’s seizure of a container terminal managed by the Dubai-based global port operator.

The company said a London tribunal ordered Djibouti to restore its rights and benefits under a 2006 concession agreement governing the Doraleh port within two months or pay damages. DP World estimates it has lost $1 billion since Djibouti took over the terminal in February 2018.

DP World, which is majority-owned by the Dubai government in the United Arab Emirates, operates nearly 80 marine and inland terminals around the world.Djibouti seized the container terminal after DP World created another corridor for imports to landlocked Ethiopia in Somaliland, endangering Djibouti’s near-monopoly on Ethiopia’s imports.

Ethiopia recently became a 19% shareholder in Somaliland’s Berbera port, where DP World holds a 51% stake. Somaliland, a breakaway northern region of Somalia, holds the remaining 30 per cent.

The expansion into Somaliland came alongside plans by the United Arab Emirates to build a naval base in Berbera, part of its expanding military presence in the region.

Djibouti’s port alone accounts for 95% of Ethiopia’s imports. With a population of 110 million people, Ethiopia is the largest economy in the Horn of Africa.

DP World said the tribunal ruled that Djibouti broke the law when it removed the company from management of the terminal and transferred the terminal’s assets to a state-run company. The Dubai-based company said Djibouti has ignored five previous rulings in its favor despite the fact that the contract is governed by English law.

 

Ethiopia sets tentative August date for elections

Ethiopia sets tentative August date for elections


Source: Reuters, Wednesday January 15, 2020

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attends a signing ceremony with visiting European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, December 7, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attends a signing ceremony with visiting European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, December 7, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo


ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia proposes to hold its national vote on Aug. 16, the electoral board said on Wednesday, the first poll under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who has eased political restrictions and taken steps to open the economy since taking office in 2018.Ethiopia’s 100 million people are seeing unprecedented political change, but Abiy’s reforms have also uncorked ethnic rivalries that have spilled into violence.

Plans to hold the vote for parliament and regional councils in May had been postponed as neither authorities nor parties would be ready, electoral board head Birtukan Mideksa told a meeting of political parties and civil society groups.

The new Aug. 16 date is tentative, she told Reuters. Results would be due between Aug. 17-26.

One opposition political party said Aug. 16 was unsuitable because it is a fasting day for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and falls during the rainy season.

“There are concerns that need to be resolved and addressed specifically on the schedule,” Desalegn Chane, president of the opposition National Movement of Amhara, told Reuters.

Ethiopia has held regular parliamentary elections since the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) took power in 1991 but, with one exception, none were competitive.The EPRDF appointed Abiy, 43, in 2018 after three years of anti-government protests. Among the achievements of his first year in office was peace with longtime foe and neighbour Eritrea, for which Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. His promised reforms include a credible multi-party poll in 2020.

In November, the ruling coalition approved a merger of three of its four ethnic-based parties into a single national party as part of Abiy’s efforts to unite the country.

Abiy has freed journalists and activists, lifted bans on political parties, appointed former dissidents to high-level posts and prosecuted officials for rights abuses.

But violence in the regions has forced 2.4 million people out of their homes, according to the United Nations, and delayed both a national census and local elections. Opposition politicians have repeatedly warned that election delays could fuel unrest and dent the democratic credentials of Abiy.

William Davison, Ethiopia analyst at the International Crisis Group think-tank, said the opposition could pose a real challenge to the ruling party.

“An overall majority for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s party is by no means guaranteed, especially if the opposition is allowed to freely campaign,” Davison said.

Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw; Writing by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Katharine Houreld, Andrew Cawthorne and Peter Graff

Chinese Rocket, Ethiopian Satelite

Chinese Rocket, Ethiopian Satellite

Space in Africa reported on Ethiopia’s new satellite in an article dated 6 January 2020 and titled “ETRSS-1 Captures First Test Images” by Ogechi Onuoha.
Source: Space in Africa reported on Ethiopia’s new satellite in an article dated 6 January 2020
On 20 December 2019, a Chinese Long March 4B rocket launched a 70 kilogram Ethiopian civil earth observation satellite to provide data to monitor the environment and study weather patterns. The first test images are now arriving.

AFP ran a story dated 2 January 2020 titled “No, It Is a Chinese Rocket Doctored with the Ethiopian Flag.” It seems that social media has been carrying pictures of a Chinese rocket doctored with the Ethiopian flag and logo, suggesting that an Ethiopian rocket launched the satellite. Although probably all in good fun, it was a Chinese rocket.

Monday, January 6, 2020

EU Funding To Keep Eritreans in Eritrea

EU Funding To Keep Eritreans in Eritrea

The New York Times published on 8 January 2020 an article titled “How Forced Labor in Eritrea Is Linked to E.U.-Funded Projects” by Matina Stevis-Gridneff.

The European Union is funding projects in Eritrea designed to improve the economy and create jobs so that Eritreans do not seek asylum in Europe. The problem is that the projects rely on labor from Eritrea’s National Service, which constitutes conscript labor. This has outraged human rights organizations.

Despite Fewer Killings, Somali Journalists Remain Targets

Despite Fewer Killings, Somali Journalists Remain Targets


Source: VOA, Friday January 10, 2020

Somali government forces beat and detained a record number of journalists in 2019, according to a new report by a Mogadishu-based journalists trade union.

Abdalle Ahmed Mumin of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) says the findings, issued Sunday, indicate media professionals in the East African nation now face a greater threat from the state than from regional terror networks such as al-Shabab.

“Eighty-one journalists were physically assaulted during 2019,” said Mumin, adding that at least seven media outlets were shuttered and dozens of journalists were detained, the majority of whom were quickly released without charges.

“Three journalists were wounded, two of them sustained gunshot wounds,” he told VOA.

Although the number of media professionals killed in the field during 2019 — two — is far lower than earlier years, Mumin called the trend of increased detentions and harassment by government actors a serious concern.

“The government is not allowing journalists to report,” Mumin recently told Reuters, explaining that most reporters were detained while covering bombings, insurgent attacks, and sometimes corruption.

For years, al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab was accused of killing Somali journalists, and 2019 was no different. Both Somali reporters killed in 2019 died during al-Shabab’s July 12 car bomb and gun attack on the Asasey Hotel in Kismayo, which claimed 26 lives.
A dangerous beat

Somali officials rarely release casualty figures from insurgent attacks, and SJS says reporting on counterterror efforts and human rights abuses by the state is particularly risky.

Mogadishu-based journalist Mohamed Bulbul said his reporting on al-Shabab’s infiltration of local business and government offices drew threats from state officials.

“The government was angry about my report, which was broadcast on Universal TV in Mogadishu,” he told VOA. “I went into hiding after security forces [decided] to hunt me down. I couldn’t work for several weeks.”

In March, 10 gunmen, including nine in police uniform, opened fire inside Universal Television studios.

Somali officials have denied their officers were involved in the attack, which did not claim any lives.

In December, the federal state of Hirshabelle in central Somalia closed an FM radio station, accusing it of spreading misinformation. Authorities briefly detained the owner and some staff.

Mumin says state intimidation of journalists typically leaves them without recourse.

“State security forces and state officials [act] with total impunity,” he said. “They have [the power] to suppress Somali journalists … not only in Mogadishu, it is happening in Kismayo, it is happening in Hargeisa, Garowe, and it’s happening in all the states in the country where journalists are not able to report any sensitive reporting, like human rights issues.

“Journalists are not allowed to report security-related issues,” he said.

Somalia’s Ministry of Information did not respond to VOA requests for commentary in time for publication.
Parliamentary ban

In a recent Reuters report, Farhan Mohamed Hussein of Radio Kulmiye said Somali police blindfolded and beat him with gun butts over his reporting, while Nimco Mohamed Bashir of Rajo Television Network said police arrived at her home to threaten her family.

Bashir said the government intimidation has been more stifling for journalists than the persistent threat of assassination by al-Shabab.

“Farmajo’s police beat you with gun butts. … They openly tell you ‘no covering stories of blasts,’” she said, referring to President Mohamed Abdullahi, a U.S.-Somali citizen known by his nickname Farmajo.

Mumin also said Somalia’s parliament has banned journalists in 2019 and that the upper legislature is drafting a bill to further restrict press freedoms.

Washington-based Freedom House ranked Somalia not free in 2019, while Paris-based Reporters Without Borders ranked Somalia 164 out of 180 countries in its 2019 annual World Press Freedom Index.

The SJS figures, which do not account for the breakaway republic of Somaliland, say 16 journalists were detained in 2017, 12 in 2016, and six in 2016.

Somalia has not seen a stable central government since the fall of President Mohamed Siad Barre nearly 30 years ago.

Hold elections in 2020, respect freedom of speech, Swan urges Somaliland

Hold elections in 2020, respect freedom of speech, Swan urges Somaliland


Source: Hiiraan Online, Thursday January 9, 2020

HARGEISA (HOL) – UN Special envoy to Somalia James Swan has reiterated his call on Somaliland to hold elections in 2020 despite the delays by parliament announced last November.

Addressing journalists in Hargeisa following a meeting with Somaliland president Muse Bihi, Swan said there was need to fast track the process to ensure the break-away region holds parliamentary elections this year.

The last parliamentary elections in Somaliland were held in 2005 and any attempts have since failed following perennial delays.“We encourage rapid progress to complete all necessary steps for Somaliland to hold parliamentary elections in 2020. We welcome the inter-party dialogue and urge implementation of the recent agreements that would enable preparations for elections to be held in 2020,” said Swan.

Swan’s remarks follow similar calls by the international community in November following the decision by Somaliland’s House of the Elders (Guurti) to add itself three more years and two to the Lower House.
The international community had expressed concerns over the delays and urged Somaliland authorities to ensure elections are held this year.

Swan also pressed Bihi’s administration for suppression of freedom of expression and urged respect.

“We call on Somaliland authorities to ensure respect for freedom of speech and assembly, as well as the ability of political parties to organise and function. Such political space is essential for a credible process.”

The UN envoy also urged continued efforts to finding lasting peace in Tukaraq and other disputed areas between Somaliland and Puntland.

Three Americans Killed in Al Shabaab Militant Attack on Base in Kenya

Three Americans Killed in Al Shabaab Militant Attack on Base in Kenya


Source: Reuters, Monday January 6, 2020

Three Americans – one U.S. military servicemember and two contractors – were killed by Somalia’s al Shabaab militant group during an attack on Sunday on a military base in Kenya used by both U.S. and Kenyan forces, the U.S. military said.

The military’s Africa Command confirmed the deaths and said two other Americans who work for the U.S. Department of Defense were also wounded in the attack on the Manda Bay Airfield in Lamu county, close to the Somali border.

“The wounded Americans are currently in stable condition and being evacuated,” Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a statement.

The attack presents another crisis for Washington just as the Pentagon grapples with a rapidly escalating standoff with Iran following a Friday U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that killed top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.Tehran and Washington have traded threats and counter-threats following the strike, stoking fears of open conflict.

The assault by al Shabaab, which has been fighting for more than a decade to overthrow the Somali government and impose strict Islamic law, began before dawn and lasted around four hours, witnesses and military sources told Reuters.
A Kenyan police report seen by Reuters said the Islamist militants destroyed two planes, two U.S. helicopters and multiple American military vehicles during their assault.

The Kenyan military said five militants had been killed in the attack. There were no immediate reports of Kenyan casualties.

In a statement earlier on Sunday, al Shabaab claimed it had destroyed seven aircraft and three military vehicles, without providing other details. It also published pictures of masked gunmen standing next to an aircraft in flames.

AFRICOM said fewer than 150 U.S. personnel had been at the base, where they provided training and counterterrorism support to East African forces.

“Alongside our African and international partners, we will pursue those responsible for this attack,” said U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, who leads Africa Command.

Kenyan military spokesman Colonel Paul Njuguna said the base had been secured.

“This morning at around 5:30 am an attempt was made to breach security at Manda Air Strip. The attempted breach was successfully repulsed,” he said in a statement.

“Arising from the unsuccessful breach a fire broke out affecting some of the fuel tanks located at the airstrip. The fire has been put under control.”

In the operation to repulse the attack, at least five militants were killed and weapons including four AK47 rifles were seized, Njuguna said.

There was no indication the militants had managed to enter the base. The airfield is separate to another on Manda Island used by commercial flights to Lamu.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 after a spate of cross-border attacks and kidnappings. They were later absorbed into an African Union peacekeeping force, now 21,000-strong, which supports the shaky, Western-backed Somali government.

EXPLOSION IN THE DARK

Independent investigator Benjamin Strick, who analyses satellite imagery for open-source investigation websites such as Bellingcat, said the photos of gunmen next to a burning plane published by al Shabaab matched satellite images of buildings and a distinctive aircraft apron adjacent to the base but outside its perimeter.

Residents on nearby Lamu Island, a haven for wealthy tourists and visiting European royalty, said a loud explosion jolted them awake before 4 a.m.

Abdalla Barghash said he later saw a large dark plume of smoke rising from the Manda Bay mainland, where the airstrip and base are located.

Lamu county, which is far more impoverished than the island, is frequently targeted by al Shabaab with roadside bombs and ambushes on travellers or attacks on isolated villages.

The insurgents killed three passengers when they attacked a bus in the county on Thursday.

Ethiopia, Sudan mull cooperation on port service

Ethiopia, Sudan mull cooperation on port service


Source: Xinhuanet, Monday January 6, 2020

The governments of Ethiopia and Sudan have emphasised the crucial significance of cooperation on port service and utilisation as landlocked Ethiopia aspires to enhance its access to ports.

This came as high-level officials from the two neighbouring countries met on issues of port service and utilisation, comprising the Ethiopian Minister of Transport Dagmawit Moges and Sudan’s Undersecretary of the Ministry of Infrastructure Omar Ahmed Mohammed and Director General of Sudanese Sea Ports Corporation Onour Mussa, state-run Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) reported on Wednesday.

As part of the two countries’ cooperation ambition on port service and utilisation, Sudan’s Sea Port Corporation “will provide all the necessary support for Ethiopia to use the Ports of Sudan for its import-export commodities,” according to the report.

The Sudanese Sea Port Corporation is also expected to offer back-office for Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics Service Enterprise (ESLSE) – an Ethiopian government entity mandated to undertake shipping and logistics service – in order to facilitate the import of fertilizer which is expected to be delivered shortly, it was noted.

During the meeting, high-level officials from Ethiopia and Sudan also “agreed to establish a technical committee to smooth the progress of the port service,” the report added.

The agreement includes implementing the 2003 pledge by the government of Sudan to offer 875,000 square meter area of land close to Port Sudan for Ethiopian logistics service, it was noted.The Ethiopian government had previously indicated its plan to work with Sudan, as the East African country envisaged to tap on Port Sudan’s geographical convenience for the East African country’s northern region.

The Red Sea nation Djibouti presently handles about 90 percent of landlocked Ethiopia’s export-import trade.

With Ethiopia’s population nearing 100 million people and a growing economy, the desire to use the two ports has been considered by the Ethiopian government for some time.

Somalia condemns Manda Bay attack, US confirms loss of 3 officers

Somalia condemns Manda Bay attack, US confirms loss of 3 officers


Source: Hiiraan Online, Monday January 6, 2020

MOGADISHU (HOL) – Somalia has condemned the attack on the joint Kenya-US military base in the coastal region of Lamu noting such attacks will not hinder efforts for peace in the region.

“The failed attack from the crumbling Al Shabab terror group aimed at defence personnel and property
will not hinder the joint efforts to eliminate those against the peace and stability of the region,” the statement from Villa Somalia read in part.

Somali government also lauded the Kenyan and US forces for ‘swiftly repulsing the attack, thus inflicting heavy defeat on the Al Shabab terror organization.”Meanwhile the US has confirmed it lost three of its citizens during the attack which the militant group
Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility.

In a statement, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) said one service member and two Department of Defense contractors were killed and two defense department members were wounded in the 4am attack.

After an initial penetration of the perimeter, Kenya Defense Forces and U.S. Africa Command repelled
the al-Shabaab attack.

Reports indicate that six contractor-operated civilian aircraft were damaged to some degree, AFRICOM said.

Source said the militants cut the power supply in the locality before launching the attack.

Kenya Defense Forces spokesman Paul Njuguna told journalists there were no casualties on the Kenyan forces and that the airstrip had now been fully secured.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of our teammates who lost their lives today,”
said U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command.

“As we honor their sacrifice, let’s also harden our resolve. Alongside our African and international partners, we will pursue those responsible for this attack and al-Shabaab who seeks to harm Americans and U.S. interests.

We have invested over $1b in Somalia since 2011- Turkish ambassador to Somalia

We have invested over $1b in Somalia since 2011- Turkish ambassador to Somalia


Source: Hiiraan Online, Saturday January 4, 2020

MOGADISHU (HOL) – The Turkish government has invested over a billion dollars in Somalia since 2011, the country’s ambassador in Somalia Mehmet Yilmaz has said noting his country was committed to supporting Somalia.

Ambassador Yilmaz said in an interview with VOA Somali his country’s policy towards Somalia is aimed at enabling the Horn of Africa nation to stand on its feet and depend on itself in future.”Turkey has invested in Somalia $1 billion plus since 2011. Direct budgetary support to the government was $30 million in 2019 and a $100 million cash donation in 2018,” Yilmaz said. “ In the past Somalia’s needs were different, that is why we invested hospitals, roads, schools.”

The Turkish diplomat noted his country is now shifting focus to capacity development. Turkey opened a military academy in Mogadishu in 2017 and currently trains Somali Army officers in various cadres.

According to the recently passed 2020 budget, Turkey is the only bilateral partner expected to chip in and is raising its contribution to $30 million from $15 million last year.

Yilmaz noted his country has no hidden interests in Somalia but only honest support.

“We are trying to build agencies; the institutions that a modern state or government needs, and also infrastructure in both in terms of physical and human capital that Somalia needs to function and to provide public services,” he said.

On allegations by Al-Shabaab that it was targeting Turkish road builders during the bombing in Ex-Control, Mehmet said there will be a clear picture in the coming days.

“In the coming days we’ll have a clearer picture of what the target was and who was targeted. Somali authorities are working on that issue and probably they’ll reach a conclusion and we’ll have a better idea,” he said

Truck bomb in Somalia kills at least 78 at rush hour

Truck bomb in Somalia kills at least 78 at rush hour


Abdi Guled
Source: AP, Saturday December 28, 2019

A truck carries wreckage of a car used in a car bomb in Mogadishu, Somalia, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019. A truck bomb exploded at a busy security checkpoint in Somalia's capital Saturday morning, authorities said. It was one of the deadliest attacks in Mogadishu in recent memory. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsame)
A truck carries wreckage of a car used in a car bomb in Mogadishu, Somalia, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019. A truck bomb exploded at a busy security checkpoint in Somalia’s capital Saturday morning, authorities said. It was one of the deadliest attacks in Mogadishu in recent memory. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsame)


MOGADISHU, SOMALIA  (AP) – A truck bomb exploded at a busy security checkpoint in Somalia’s capital Saturday morning, killing at least 78 people including many students, authorities said. It was the worst attack in Mogadishu in more than two years, and witnesses said the force of the blast reminded them of the city’s devastating 2017 bombing that killed hundreds.The explosion ripped through rush hour as Somalia returned to work after its weekend. At least 125 people were wounded, Aamin Ambulance service director Abdiqadir Abdulrahman said.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed condemned the attack as a “heinous act of terror” and blamed the local al-Shabab extremist group, which is linked to al-Qaida and whose reach has extended to deadly attacks on luxury malls and schools in neighbouring Kenya.

he bombing targeted a tax collection centre, police Capt. Mohamed Hussein said, as a large plume of smoke rose above the capital.

Bodies lay on the ground amid the blackened skeletons of vehicles. At a hospital, families and friends picked through dozens of the dead, gingerly lifting sheets to peer at faces. Hundreds of Mogadishu residents began to donate blood in response to desperate appeals.

Most of those killed were university and other students returning to class, Mayor Omar Mohamud Mohamed said. Somalis mourned the deaths of so many young people in a country trying to rebuild itself after decades of conflict. Two Turkish brothers were among the dead, Somalia’s foreign minister said, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the attack.There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but al-Shabab often carries out such attacks. The extremist group was pushed out of Mogadishu several years ago but continues to target high-profile areas such as checkpoints and hotels in the seaside city.

Al-Shabab is now able to make its own explosives, its “weapon of choice,” United Nations experts monitoring sanctions on Somalia said earlier this year. The group had previously relied on military-grade explosives captured during assaults on an African Union peacekeeping force.

Al-Shabab was blamed for the truck bombing in Mogadishu in October 2017 that killed more than 500 people. The group never claimed responsibility for the blast that led to widespread public outrage. Some analysts said al-Shabab didn’t dare claim credit as its strategy of trying to sway public opinion by exposing government weakness had badly backfired.

“This explosion is similar like the one … in 2017. This one occurred just a few steps away from where I am and it knocked me on the ground from its force. I have never seen such a explosion in my entire life,” witness Abdurrahman Yusuf said.

The attack again raises concern about the readiness of Somali forces to take over responsibility for the Horn of Africa country’s security in the coming months from the AU force.

Al-Shabab, the target of a growing number of U.S. airstrikes since President Donald Trump took office, controls parts of Somalia’s southern and central regions. It funds itself with a “taxation” system that experts describe as extortion of businesses and travellers that brings in millions of dollars a year.

THE SWEDISH SYSTEM OF GOVORNMENT

THE SWEDISH SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT

All public power proceeds from the people. This is the foundation of the Swedish system of government. Everyone has the same rights and is free to scrutinise how politicians and public agencies exercise their power.

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Photo: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se

A parliamentary democracy

In Sweden, general elections are held every four years. Around 7 million people are entitled to vote and thereby influence which political party will represent them in the Swedish parliament (the Riksdag), county councils and municipalities.

People can also influence Swedish politics in other ways – by taking part in referendums, joining a political party or commenting on reports presented by the government.

The Swedish Constitution

The Swedish Constitution defines how Sweden is governed. It regulates the relationships between decision-making and executive power, and the basic rights and freedoms of citizens. Four fundamental laws make up the Constitution: the Instrument of Government, the Act of Succession, the Freedom of the Press Act and the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression. The fundamental laws take precedence over all other statutes.

Among other things, the Instrument of Government guarantees citizens the right to obtain information freely, hold demonstrations, form political parties and practice their religion.

The Act of Succession regulates the right of members of the House of Bernadotte, the royal family, to accede to the Swedish throne.

The Freedom of the Press Act sets out the principle of public access to official documents relating to the work of the parliament, the government and public agencies. This law allows people to study official documents whenever they wish.

The Law on Freedom of Expression, which came into force in 1992, largely mirrors the Freedom of the Press Act, in regards to the prohibition of censorship, the freedom to communicate information and the right to anonymity.

Read about the history of Swedish freedom of the press here.

The Swedish parliament has 349 members who are elected by Sweden’s citizens every four years in general elections.

Photo: Melker Dahlstrand/imagebank.sweden.se

The parliament – representing the people

The parliament makes the decisions and the government implements them. The government also submits proposals for new laws or law amendments to the parliament.

The parliament with its 349 members is Sweden’s primary representative forum. The entire parliament is chosen by direct elections based on suffrage for all Swedish citizens aged 18 or over who are, or previously have been, residents of Sweden.

General elections to the parliament are held on the second Sunday of September every four years. To serve in the parliament, a person has to be a Swedish citizen and aged 18 or more. Seats are distributed among the political parties in proportion to the votes cast for them across the country as a whole.

Four per cent required

There is one exception to the rule of full national proportionality: a party must receive at least 4 per cent of all votes in the election to gain representation in the parliament, a rule designed to prevent very small parties from getting in.

Read about the eight parties currently represented in the parliament here.

Appointing a prime minister

The speaker of the parliament proposes a prime minister, who the parliament then votes on. The prime minister is tasked with forming a government. The prime minister personally chooses the ministers to make up the cabinet and also decides which ministers will be in charge of the various ministries. Together, the prime minister and the cabinet ministers form the government. The government governs the country but is accountable to the parliament.

The government at work

The government rules Sweden by implementing the decisions of the parliament and by formulating new laws or law amendments, on which the parliament decides.

The government is assisted in this task by the Government Offices and the Swedish government agencies (345 in total, as of 2018). The cabinet as a whole is responsible for all government decisions. Although many routine matters are in practice decided by individual ministers and only formally approved by the government, the principle of collective responsibility is reflected in all governmental work. As part of its official functions, the government:

  • presents bills to the parliament
  • implements parliament decisions
  • allocates the funds appropriated by the parliament for expenditure on items in the budget
  • represents Sweden in the EU
  • enters into agreements with other states
  • takes decisions in certain administrative areas not covered by other authorities
  • directs the activities and operations of the executive branch.

Local, regional and EU government

Sweden has three levels of domestic government: national, regional and local. In addition, the European level has become increasingly important since Sweden joined the European Union (EU) in 1995.

The regional level

At the regional level, Sweden is divided into 20 counties. The county councils are responsible for overseeing tasks such as health care and are entitled to levy income taxes to cover their costs.

The local level

At the local level, Sweden is divided into 290 municipalities, each with an elected assembly or council. Municipalities are responsible for a broad range of facilities and services including housing, roads, water supply and waste water processing, schools, public welfare, elderly care and childcare. They are legally obliged to provide certain basic services. The municipalities are entitled to levy income taxes on individuals, and they also charge for various services.

The European level

On entering the European Union (EU) in 1995, Sweden also got a European level of government. Sweden takes part in the decision-making process when new common rules are drafted and approved, and the Swedish government represents Sweden in the European Council of Ministers, the EU’s principal decision-making body.

Social Democrat Stefan Löfven was appointed prime minister of Sweden after the 2014 general elections – and again after the 2018 elections.

Photo: Janerik Henriksson /TT

History of Swedish elections

2018: After a lengthy process, the Social Democratic Party and the Green Party form a government.

2014: A minority left-of-centre coalition takes over after the Alliance.

2010: The ruling centre-right Alliance beats the left-of-centre coalition, but fails to gain an outright majority.

2006: The non-socialist parties form a four-party coalition government called the Alliance.

2002 and 1998: The Social Democrats remain in office after both elections, but in order to implement their policies are forced to form a parliamentary alliance with the Left Party and the Green Party.

1994: The Social Democrats form a new minority government. Starting from this year, general elections are held every four years instead of three.

1991: A non-socialist minority government of the Moderates, Liberals, the Centre Party and Christian Democrats is formed.

1988 and 1985: The Social Democrats remain in power after both elections.

1982: The non-socialist parties lose their majority and a Social Democratic minority government is formed.

1979: The non-socialist parties retain their parliamentary majority, and a new three-party government is formed. In the spring of 1981, the Moderate Party leaves the government.

1976: The Social Democrats are defeated by a coalition consisting of the Centre Party, the Moderates and the Liberal Party.

1932–1976: The Social Democrats rule without interruption, except for a period of 109 days in 1936 when Sweden has an interim government.

Ethiopia approves accord with Djibouti to build natural gas pipeline: report

Ethiopia approves accord with Djibouti to build natural gas pipeline: report


Source: CGTN, Friday December 27, 2019

FILE PHOTO: Members of the Ethiopian Parliament in Addis Ababa. (Photo by Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: Members of the Ethiopian Parliament in Addis Ababa. (Photo by Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


The Ethiopian House of Peoples’ Representative (HoPR) has approved an agreement that was signed between the governments of Ethiopia and Djibouti to install a cross-border pipeline to transport natural gas.The HoPR, the lower house of the Ethiopian parliament, “approved the agreement as it meets international requirements and allow the country to generate foreign currency from gas export,” state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate (FBC) reported on Wednesday.

Landlocked Ethiopia, which announced the discovery of up to 7 to 8 billion cubic trillion feet (TFC) of natural gas in Ethiopia’s Somali regional state by the Chinese firm Poly-GCL Petroleum Group Holdings Limited (Poly-GCL), had signed the agreement with Djibouti early this year to build the pipeline which enables it to transport natural gas from Ogaden area to an export terminal in the Red Sea nation of Djibouti.

Endorsing the bilateral agreement signed by the two neighboring countries, the Ethiopian House of Peoples’ Representative also emphasized that the latest agreement would “further cement the previously concluded deals” between the two countries, according to the report.In February this year, the Ethiopia Ministry of Mines and Petroleum had disclosed that the Poly-GCL, which discovered the natural gas reserve in Ethiopia’s Ogaden area, would construct the 767-km natural gas pipeline.

The ministry also stressed that the move would bring much-needed foreign currency to both countries, once the natural gas pipeline project is constructed and commissioned.

Poly-GCL is expected to install a pipeline to transport the gas from fields in landlocked Ethiopia up to ports in neighboring Djibouti in a period of two years. Around 700-km of the natural gas pipeline will be located in Ethiopia, while the rest of the natural gas pipeline will be located in Djibouti, according to the ministry.

The East African country, following the discovery of the hug natural gas, had also announced its plans to generate 1 billion U.S. dollars annually from extraction of natural gas and crude oil deposits.

Somalia, Saudi Arabia agree to resolve challenges faced by Somali pilgrims

Somalia, Saudi Arabia agree to resolve challenges faced by Somali pilgrims


Source: Hiiraan Online, Thursday December 26, 2019

Source: MOGADISHU (HOL) – Pilgrims from Somalia heading to Saudi Arabia for observance of religious practices will no longer face obstacles like before thanks to an agreement between the two governments.

Religious Affairs Minister Sheikh Mur Hassan told the local media Wednesday the challenges facing the pilgrims from Somalia were resolved following a meeting with his Saudi counterpart.“We agreed with Saudi Arabia authorities in charge of Hajj and Umrah to resolve the obstacles facing pilgrims from Somalia,” the minister said.

The minister added the Saudi authorities had also increased the quota for Somalia to allow more pilgrims visit the holy lands and also eased travel restrictions.

Somali pilgrims have in the past complained of poor treatment and neglect by Saudi authorities during their annual visits for both Hajj and Umra.

Somalia Hopes Security Cameras Deter Mogadishu Terrorist Attackes

Somalia Hopes Security Cameras Deter Mogadishu Terrorist Attacks

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA – Authorities in Somalia have installed security cameras on major roads in the capital, Mogadishu, in an effort to deter ongoing attacks by the Islamist militant group Al-Shabab.  Residents and business owners have welcomed the stepped-up security.  But, as Mohamed Sheik Nor reports from Mogadishu, some analysts doubt the cameras will be enough to stop the attacks.

This month, Somali authorities began installing security cameras on some of Mogadishu’s major roads, like the Maka al-Mukarama, which leads to the presidential palace.

Abdullahi Farah, director of policy and legal affairs at the Ministry of Security says the closed-circuit television cameras, mounted at key intersections, are meant to deter frequent attacks by the al-Shabab terrorist group.

Farah says the security cameras will reduce criminal activities and prevent al-Shabab from carrying out attacks.

Protesters carry banners which reads" Down with those who carried the killings" in Mogadishu, Somalia, Monday, Dec. 7, 2009. …
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He says these surveillance cameras will reduce the terrorist attacks.  They will deter them from carrying out attacks because the cameras are tracking them.  Therefore, he says, our people are quite happy about the move and deem it a step forward.

Mogadishu residents and business owners have welcomed the cameras in the city’s business center, which the Islamist militants often target.

Business owner Deqa Salad is one of those who think the cameras will make a difference.

She says these cameras deter anyone from committing a crime.  Even ordinary thieves avoid cameras like these, she says, because they afraid to be caught on camera.

But political analyst Hassan Barise says the cameras will only deter terrorists who fear getting caught — not suicide bombers who were told that if they kill, they will be rewarded in the afterlife.

“But the others who have been seriously brainwashed, or heavily indoctrinated ones, will not be avoiding anything,” said Barise. “Because, in the end of the day, they think that they will go to heaven.”

Barise adds the cameras themselves will need security, as al-Shabab is likely to target them for destruction.

The terrorist group in May ordered Mogadishu businesses with cameras to remove them or else they would attack.

Ibrahim Hajji, director of communications at the Ministry of Defense, says authorities will closely monitor the new security cameras.

A special team is manning this system, which the government established, he says.  He says he does not want to go into details, as it is a sensitive matter.

To further deter the Islamist militants, Somali authorities say they are also training and deploying more police and intelligence officers in the capital.