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Locust swarms threaten more countries in eastern Africa: FAOSour

Locust swarms threaten more countries in eastern Africa: FAOSour

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Swarms of desert locusts could ravage more countries in eastern Africa and threaten the livelihood of many more people, the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said on Monday.

Source: Reuters 3rd February 2020

FILE PHOTO: Desert locusts are seen within a grazing land in Lemasulani village, Samburu County, Kenya January 17, 2020. REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi

The swarms, first sighted in December, have already destroyed tens of thousands of hectares (acres) of farmland in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, threatening food supplies in the worst locust invasion in 70 years.

“There also other countries at risk, especially South Sudan, Uganda, Eritrea…,” said Bukar Tijani, assistant director-general of the FAO’s agriculture and consumer protection department.

FAO said at least one locust swarm had already been seen in Eritrea, and several had also been sighted in Oman and Yemen.

Even before the locust invasion, some 11 million people in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya were experiencing food insecurity, and the swarms will worsen the situation, the FAO said.

“Therefore, we need to make all possible efforts to avoid such a deterioration,” said Dominique Burgeon, director of the FAO Emergencies and Rehabilitation Division, during a visit to Samburu and Kitui counties, two of 15 affected regions in Kenya.

“We know that these locusts… can create massive devastation not only in terms of crops but also in terms of pasture and therefore affecting the livelihoods of the pastoralist communities… The only solution that works is aerial spraying (of pesticides).”

Conflict and chaos in much of Somalia make spraying pesticide by airplane – which the FAO calls the “ideal control measure” – impossible, the agency said in December.

Somalia’s agriculture and irrigation ministry said it had declared the locust invasion a national emergency.

Esther Kithuka, a farmer in Mwingi in eastern Kenya’s Kitui County, said she was worried the locusts would destroy their crops, and that another growing season due to start in April would be too short for any meaningful production.

“We depend a lot on this season and we worry that the locusts will destroy our harvest and we will end up remaining hungry through the rest of the year waiting for October for the next cropping season,” she said.

Additional reporting by Abdi Sheikh in Mogadishu; writing by George Obulutsa; editing by Omar Mohammed and Gareth Jones

Eritrea’s Afawerki: Somalia no longer exists

Eritrea’s Afawerki: Somalia no longer exists

Hiiraan Online
Source: Hiiraan Online, Sunday, May 15, 2016

MOGADISHU (HOL) -The increasing number of regional states in Somalia have left the long anarchic horn of Africa nation fragmented and the country no longer exists in the continent, Eritrean president said.

The Eritrean strongman Isaias Afwerki who led the East African nation since 1993 says that the crisis in Somalia continues to disintegrate the country following the collapse of the central government in 1991.

“Somalia is completely a different story – It’s a problem of a nation that has disintegrated; it’s a question of a nation that has gone into internal and external crisis.” Mr. Afawerki said during an interview with a local news site.

“Somalia does not exist.”

In addition, the Eritrean leader took a swipe at the growing number of regional states and the breakaway northern Somalia republic of Somalia, saying that they were the source of the country’s breakdown.

“When you have one county divided, fragmented from within – its Somaliland, its Puntland, Its Benadirland its so many lands, but beyond that its fragmented into clans, into tribes, into warlordism – that’s very sad.” He said in the undated interview.

Hiiraan Online cannot determine the time the interview was taken, however president Afawerki said that crisis in Somalia has had a negative effect on the entire horn of Africa.“The instability in Somalia affects the stability of the whole region – and that’s what we have witnesses in the last 20 years – we would like Somalia to revive, we would like this nation to come to normalcy again.” He noted.

Despite a relative stability in the country since the ouster of Islamist insurgents from the capital and surrounding regions, Somalia continues to face mounting political and security challenges that experts say continue to stand in the way of the country’s overall improvements.

The country’s security forces with the support of the strong-22000 African Union force is struggling to defeat fighters from the Al-Qaeda linked Al Shabab group which continues to wage a deadly guerrilla war across large parts of the horn of Africa nation.

How prepared is Africa for an outbreak of deadly coronavirus?

How prepared is Africa for an outbreak of deadly coronavirus?

Aljazeera, Sunday February 2, 2020

As scientists race to find a vaccine, the number of people killed has exceeded 250 [EPA]

No confirmed case on the continent yet but fears grow the deadly disease will reach countries with weak health systems.

Countries across Africa are ramping up measures to prevent an outbreak of a new coronavirus that has killed more than 250 in China and spread to several Asian countries, and as far afield as the United States, Europe and Australia.

As scientists race to find a vaccine, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday declared a public health emergency of international concern amid rising fears the virus could reach countries with weak healthcare systems.

In Africa, where past viral outbreaks have stretched already-strained healthcare systems in a number of countries, there have been no confirmed cases to date – but several countries have reported suspected cases of the rapidly spreading disease that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

Amid the mounting concerns, medical experts appear certain that the deadly virus will also infect people on the continent, pointing to the deepening trade and travel ties between China and Africa that has seen many countries on the continent become popular tourist, business and investment destinations for the Chinese.”We can be very certain that coronavirus will be exported to Africa,” said Ngozi Erondu, associate fellow of the Global Health Programme at Chatham House.

“There is a large amount of travel between China and Africa; hubs such as Addis Ababa, Cairo and Nairobi are at particular risks due to the large amount of Chinese travellers that pass through these airports.”

Measures taken

Speaking at the African Union headquarters on Tuesday, John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), said the institution was working closely with their Chinese counterparts, adding that, “We in Africa are watching the situation and also preparing ourselves to deal with any outbreak or cases.”

Three days later, the WHO announced it would be scaling up preparedness in Africa, particularly in 13 top priority countries: Algeria, Angola, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Authorities in most of these countries have set up active screening at airports, it said, calling on governments to “step up their readiness”.

“The quicker countries can detect cases, the faster they will be able to contain an outbreak and ensure the novel coronavirus does not overwhelm health systems,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.

U.S hails Qoor-qoor’s election, calls for dialogue in Galmudug

U.S hails Qoor-qoor’s election, calls for dialogue in Galmudug

Hiiraan Online, Sunday February 2, 2020

MOGADISHU (HOL) – The U.S embassy in Somalia has welcomed the election of Ahmed Kariye Qoor-qoor as the new President of Galmudug state and warned against threats of violence in the region.

“Today’s election is a beginning to a broad -based political reconciliation process, and the United States calls on everyone to commit to participating in a peaceful dialogue that jointly addresses the challenges facing the region and the country,” a statement from the Embassy in Mogadishu read in part.

Noting that Galmudug is critical for the future of Somalia, the embassy called for ‘dialogue and compromise on both sides.’Qoor-qoor was elected Sunday in a vote boycotted by three main contenders even as the Alhu Sunna faction announced Thursday it had elected outgoing chief minister Mohamed Shakir as president of the central Somalia state.

Out of the 77 MPs who cast their vote Sunday morning, Qoor-qoor who was until mid-last month State Minister for Public Works garnered 66 votes while the three other candidates shared the remaining votes.

Qoor-qoor becomes the third president of Galmudug since its formation in 2015.

Court dismisses petition to bar Kenya from ICJ case with Somalia

Court dismisses petition to bar Kenya from ICJ case with Somalia

Source: Daily Nation, Friday January 31, 2020

The area in the Kenya-Somalia maritime border dispute forms a triangle east of the Kenya coast. GRAPHIC | NATION MEDIA GROUP
The area in the Kenya-Somalia maritime border dispute forms a triangle east of the Kenya coast. GRAPHIC | NATION MEDIA GROUP

NAIROBI – A three-judge bench has dismissed a petition to bar Kenyan officials from participating before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in a maritime dispute with Somalia.Justices Kanyi Kimondo, Robert Limo and Anthony Mrima noted on Friday that issues raised in the petition by 20 Kenyans would be more effectively resolved through diplomatic, legislative, policy and other executive interventions, rather than by a constitutional decision.

The petitioners had argued that the Attorney-General’s participation in the case would amount to ceding Kenya’s sovereignty.Through lawyer Kibe Mungai, they said Kenya risked forfeiting part of its territory if the ICJ ruled in Somalia’s favour.

The lawyer said the government should put its national interests first, and that the only way to do so would be by not seeking to compromise Kenya’s territorial integrity.

The ruling stated, however, that, “the AG’s participation in the proceedings will accord an opportunity to demonstrate to the court Kenya’s constitutional impediments in implementation of the decision in the event the dispute is decided in favour of Somalia.”

UN report says Somali Islamic State controls Central Africa affiliate

UN report says Somali Islamic State controls Central Africa affiliateSource: Jane’s Defence Weekly
Friday January 31, 2020

The Islamic State’s Somali affiliate has been “designated the command centre” for the movement’s offshoots in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mozambique, according to a report by the UN team that monitors Sunni extremist groups.

Islamic State Somalia Province (ISSP) is relatively small compared with the rival Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen and mainly operates in the northern region of Puntland.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP) began claiming attacks in the DRC from April 2019 and in Mozambique later that year.

Released on 30 January, the UN report cited member states as saying that ISSP was put in charge of ISCAP as part of a restructuring “aimed at consolidating decision-making and operational command centres” as part of an effort to ensure the survival of the Islamic State’s African affiliates following the core group’s defeat in Syria.


Russia to build military base in Somalia

Russia to build military base in Somalia

Source: UNIAN, Friday January 31, 2020


Moscow’s growing influence in Africa is worrying many in the West, the report says.

Russian officials are eyeing a port of Berbera as a location for their base on the coast of Somaliland, a self-declared state within Somalia on the Gulf of Aden, according to U.S. Defense Department officials. Both China and the United States, with military bases in Djibouti, share the same coastline as the potential Russian port.

Russia has also expressed interest in building a naval logistics center in Eritrea, but it is unclear how far along those negotiations are, American officials said, according to NYT.

About 1,500 miles south, down the eastern coast of Africa, Russian military transport planes landed last summer in Cabo Delgado Province in northern Mozambique and, according to American officials, deployed about 160 personnel belonging to the Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor.The Mozambique government hired the Russian mercenaries to help beleaguered local security forces combat an insurgency that claimed to be affiliated with the Islamic State. At least seven Russian personnel have been killed in operations, American officials say, underscoring the risks facing troops for hire.

American officials, analyzing what they call great power competition, say they are alarmed by Russia’s growing influence, as well as China’s, as Washington struggles to exert its economic and security goals on the continent.

This campaign for influence is playing out as U.S. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper is weighing the potential withdrawal of hundreds of forces from West Africa to better counter threats from Russia and China closer to their borders. But Mr. Esper’s review has drawn sharp criticism from influential congressional Republicans and Democrats who argue that cutting American forces in Africa would help only its rivals.

IMF Staff Completes Second Review under the Staff-Monitored Program for Somalia and Reaches Staff-Level Agreement on a New Three-Year Reform Program

MF Staff Completes Second Review under the Staff-Monitored Program for Somalia and Reaches Staff-Level Agreement on a New Three-Year Reform Program

Monday, January 27, 2020

  • The Somali authorities and the IMF mission team reached a staff-level agreement on the completion of the second review under the current Staff-Monitored Program.
  • The IMF team and the Somali authorities also reached a staff-level agreement on a new three-year macroeconomic reform program that could be supported by the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) and Extended Fund Facility (EFF).
  • The authorities’ continued strong commitment to policy and reform implementation brings Somalia closer to qualification for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative.

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) team, led by Allison Holland, met with the Somali authorities in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from  January 6—16, 2020, to discuss recent economic developments, review progress on reforms under the fourth Staff-Monitored Program (SMP-IV), and to undertake discussions on a new three-year macroeconomic reform program that could be supported by the IMF under its Extended Credit Facility (ECF) and Extended Fund Facility (EFF). Discussions with the authorities continued after the mission.


Ms. Holland issued the following statement on the staff-level agreements:

“The authorities have made good progress in implementing key policies under fourth staff-monitored program (SMP IV) supporting a staff-level agreement on the completion of the second review of SMP IV. Somalia’s sustained commitment to economic reforms brings debt relief under the HIPC Initiative closer.
“The mission commended the authorities on the success in enacting several critical bills, including on Revenue, Public Financial Management, and Anti-Corruption. In addition, the mission welcomed the authorities’ ongoing efforts to deepen inter-governmental fiscal relations at both political and technical levels. Domestic revenue collection has remained strong, with domestic revenues through November reaching US$194.6 million, relative to a full year target for 2019 of US$196 million.

“The Somali authorities and IMF staff team reached a preliminary agreement on policies that could constitute the basis for a new three-year macroeconomic reform program with the IMF, to be supported by the ECF and EFF arrangements. The program is intended to guide Somalia’s reforms over the period between the HIPC Decision and Completion Points. It will also support the authorities as they implement their Ninth National Development Plan (NDP9)—their strategy for inclusive growth and poverty reduction.

“The key policy pillars of this new program build on the reforms achieved under successive SMPs and will include (i) further strengthening public financial management; (ii) continuing to increase domestic revenue mobilization; (iii) continued deepening of capacity at the Central Bank of Somalia; and (iv) further efforts to enhance governance and reduce the perception of corruption.

“This preliminary agreement is subject to the approval of management and the IMF Executive Board and Somalia clearing its arrears to the IMF. It represents another step towards reaching the HIPC Decision Point and eventually achieving debt relief under the HIPC Initiative.

“During the visit, the team met with Finance Minister Abdirahman Dualeh Beileh; Minister of Planning, Investment and Economic Development Gamal M Hassan; Central Bank Governor Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi; Ms. Hodan Mohamoud Osman, Secretary of the Senate Finance Committee; Mr. Mohamud Abdirahman Sheikh Farah, Chairman of the House of the People Commerce Committee; and other senior officials. The team also met with development partners and other stakeholders in Nairobi on January 17, 2020. The IMF team would like to thank the Somali authorities for their cooperation and the open and productive discussions.”

Somali President arrives in Asmara for Tripartite Summit

Somali President arrives in Asmara for Tripartite Summit
Source: Hiiraan Online, Monday January 27, 2020

President of Somalia, Mohamed Abdulahi Mohamed, arrived in Asmara, Eritrea early today for Tripartite Summit between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia

President Isaias Afwerki accorded warm welcome to President Mohammed and his delegation on their arrival at Asmara International Airport, according to Yemane Gebremeskel, Eritrea’s Minister of Information.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed arrived yesterday in Asmara for the summit.

Relations between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia are growing after the Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018.

State of Somalia (SOS) Report

Heritage Institute for Policy Studies

HIPS Bulletin

Source: Heritage Institute for Policy Studies in Mogadishu, Somalia

The Heritage Institute for Policy Studies is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit policy research and analysis institute based in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Latest Policy Brief:

The Galmudug Crisis: A Blueprint For Sustainable Settlement

Download the full policy brief here

Latest Report:

Somalia: In Search of a Workable 2020 Electoral Model

Read the full Report


 State of Somalia (SOS) Report

The State of Somalia (SOS) Report focuses on the main developments and key trends in politics, security, economy, social services and the role of external actors from 1 January to 31 December 2019. The objective of the report is to: empirically and systemically document key events in Somalia; provide analysis and context to policymakers, academics and the general public; and support peace building and state building efforts in Somalia.
During the reporting period, the political situation was characterized by major upheavals and a deepening rift between the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and Federal Member States (FMS). Four out of the five states held (or are still holding) elections which the FGS saw as an opportunity to influence, and, if possible, replace the often-hostile state leaders with loyalists who would implement its vision across the country.

Download the full report here:

Tripartite Blue Nile Talks

Tripartite Blue Nile Talks

Source: The Middle East Institute published on 21 January 2020
The Middle East Institute published on 21 January 2020 a brief update titled “There’s Still a Long Way to Go, but Nile Dam Talks Are Finally Making Some Progress” by Mirette F. Mabrouk.

Washington hosted in mid-January officials from Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan in an effort to resolve issues surrounding the filling of the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River. The three parties agreed that filling of the reservoir would occur over stages and take into account the hydrological conditions of the Nile, that it would take place during the rainy season, and that it would address Ethiopia’s electricity generation needs while providing for mitigation avenues for Egypt and Sudan in times of prolonged dry spells or drought. The final talks are scheduled for 28-29 January in Washington. As usual, the devil is in the details.

Background on Al-Shabaab Attack on Kenyan Military Base

Background on Al-Shabaab Attack on Kenyan Military Base

Source: The New York Times published on 22 January 2020
The New York Times published on 22 January 2020 an article titled “Chaos as Militants Overran Airfield, Killing 3 Americans in Kenya” by Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Eric Schmitt, Charlie Savage, and Helene Cooper.

On 5 January 2020, al-Shabaab terrorists attacked a Kenyan military base at Manda Bay near the border with Somalia. About 200 Americans are assigned to the base. The attack, which killed 3 Americans, underscored the limits of the U.S. military presence in Africa. There was inadequate intelligence and personnel at the base believed Manda Bay was a relatively safe locale.

Sudan: Lives of traumutized, displaced women in West Darfur under threat

Sudan: Lives of traumatized, displaced women in West Darfur under threat

UNFPA has been supporting pregnant women in West Darfur following an increase in instability in the region.

Source: UNFPA, 15 January 2020

Ongoing instability in Sudan’s West Darfur region has left the lives, health and safety of thousands of women hanging in the balance, according to the  United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA.

Since 28 December, intercommunal disputes in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) have left more than 40,000 civilians displaced, of whom an estimated 10,800, are women of reproductive age.

More than 50 were killed and 60 others injured, the UN has reported, and thousands of civilians in recent weeks crossed the border into Chad, seeking refuge.

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Citing two flash reports this year, the UN agency shone a light on a serious lack of adequate reproductive health services and protection.

“Following the recent attack on the camps in West Darfur, women had to flee leaving behind their burnt houses and all of their personal belongings”, explained Massimo Diana, UNFPA Representative in Sudan. “The attack has left them traumatized and in need of psychological support”.

Moreover, as they have no private shelter, the women “continue to feel unsafe and are very vulnerable towards violence and harassment”, he added.

Immediate action needed

Based on data from the Ministry of Health and Social Development, there are an estimated 3,442 pregnant women in dire need of adequate reproductive health services – some 700 women of whom are in their ninth month of pregnancy, living in 41 different IDP sites.

Some 373 deliveries took place in the past 10 days alone. UNFPA stressed that immediate action is needed to save lives and ensure women’s health and safety.

“The unavailability of obstetric services for pregnant women and the lack of access to safe delivery is the reason for loss of lives both for mothers and newborns,” maintained Mr. Diana. “Overcrowding at hospitals during instability is common and in the case of current events in West Darfur means that women are delivering babies in shared rooms or open squares.”

While an estimated 160 midwives have been deployed, the availability of safe delivery facilities remains inadequate, leaving women to give birth in makeshift spaces, including classrooms in the presence of other women and children.

UN steps up assistance

UNFPA is supporting the State Ministry of Health and other partners in establishing sexual and reproductive health clinics in 31 IDP sites, which will include the services of 60 midwives.

The UN agency has also shipped 31 different emergency reproductive health kits from Khartoum to El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, to cover the needs of pregnant women.

Having no access to emergency obstetric care leads to an increase in maternal and neonatal deaths — UNFPA

“Having no access to emergency obstetric care leads to an increase in maternal and neonatal deaths so this is a life-saving intervention,” pointed out Mr. Diana.

Credible information, including from rapid assessments, also indicates that amidst rising displacement, gender-based violence (GBV) is being perpetrated on a large scale and in different forms, especially for women and girls.

The Population Fund noted that a team of GBV and reproductive health coordinators were deployed to El Geneina and emergency reproductive health kits were dispatched to support the humanitarian response.

Moreover, prevention and response efforts are being strengthened, including by coordinating and providing psychosocial support and other services.

“Gender-based violence…is one of the most pervasive human-rights abuses in the world,” the UNFPA Representative spelled out. “Both priorities must always be treated with immediate attention – regardless of whether it is an emergency or not.”

Turkish workers wounded in deadly al-Shabab car bombing

Turkish workers wounded in deadly al-Shabab car bombing

Source: Aljazeera, Saturday January 18, 2020

Paramedics carry an unidentified man injured in the explosion in Afgoye in Somalia [Feisal Omar/Reuters]
Paramedics carry an unidentified man injured in the explosion in Afgoye in Somalia [Feisal Omar/Reuters]

At least four people have been killed and 15 others wounded in a suicide car bomb attack claimed by the al-Shabab group near the capital of Somalia, according to authorities.Both Turkish and Somali officials said those injured in Saturday’s attack near the town of Afgoye, about 30 kilometres (18 miles) southwest of Mogadishu, included Turkish engineers as well as Somali nationals working on a road in the area.

Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said six Turkish nationals and nine Somali citizens were wounded in the bombing, with two in critical condition and undergoing surgery.

The AFP news agency said at least four people were killed, citing local police officer Abdirahman Adan.

“A speeding suicide car bomb rammed into a place where the Turkish engineers and Somali police were having lunch,” a different police officer, Nur Ali, told the Reuters News Agency.

Somalia-based al-Shabab armed group, which has stepped up activity in the East African country and neighbouring Kenya in recent weeks, claimed responsibility for the attack on their media outlet, Radio Andalus.

“We are behind the martyrdom of the suicide car bomb in Afgoye,” said Abdiasis Abu Musab, spokesman for the group.

“We targeted the Turkish men and the Somali forces with them. There are casualties of death and injuries’The blast was huge’Local residents described a massive explosion followed by “clouds of smoke”.

“Before the blast, several Turkish engineers and well-armed convoy of Somali police were at the scene,” Farah Abdullahi, a shopkeeper, told Reuters from Afgoye. “We see casualties being carried but we cannot make if they are dead or injured.”

Another witness, Muhidin Yusuf, told the AFP news agency: “The blast was huge, it destroyed a container used by the Turkish engineers who work on the Afgoye road construction.”

Turkey has been a significant source of aid to Somalia following a famine in 2011 as Ankara seeks to increase its influence in the Horn of Africa to counter Gulf rivals such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Turkish engineers have been helping with road construction in the country in recent years.

On Twitter, the Turkish Ministry of National Defense decried the attack. “We curse and condemn in the strongest terms the bomb terror attack which targeted innocent civilians in Somalia,” the ministry said.

This is the latest in a string of attacks by the al-Qaeda-linked group since the beginning of the year. The group has been fighting for supremacy in the Horn of Africa country for years.

Al-Shabab controls large areas in the south and centre of Somalia and repeatedly attacks security forces and civilians there and in neighbouring Kenya.

In December, a group of Turkish engineers was among those hit in a blast at a checkpoint in Mogadishu that killed at least 78 people.

On January 5, al-Shabab stormed a military base used by US forces in Kenya’s coastal Lamu region, killing three Americans.

Last week, the group warned Kenya will “never be safe”, threatening tourists and calling for more attacks on US interests.

Kenyan and US forces have assisted the Somali government in its fight against the armed group.


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


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