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Horn of Africa


Professor Mohamed Abdi Gandi

Somali International Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) extends its condolence to the family, relatives and to Somali people for sudden death of Profession Mohamed Abdi Gandi who was geologist, anthropologist, historian and contributed a lot to International Horn of Africa Peace Conferences (2002 -2012) Lund, Sweden.

Farmajo: African Solutions to African Problems

Farmajo: African Solutions to African Problemslinkedin sharing button

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Source: Hiiraan Online, Tuesday April 20, 2021

Mogadishu (HOL) – Somalia’s President has asked the African Union to facilitate talks with political stakeholders.

The announcement came on Sunday from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They emphasized that it would be a Somali-led and owned process.”With regards to # Somalia’s efforts to hold peaceful, inclusive, and timely elections, (Farmaajo’s) government would welcome the role of the AU in facilitating a Somali-led and Somali-owned engagement process that would lead to dialogue,” The Ministry said on Twitter.

Farmajo travelled to the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo late Saturday evening for a one-day meeting with President Felix Tshisekedi, who is also the 2021 African Union Chairperson.

Mohamed Abdirizak, Somalia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, travelled with Farmajo to Kinshasa for the meeting and said that Farmajo advocated for “African solutions to African problems.”

“Two presidents discussed bilateral issues as well as African issues, continental issues. In their discussions, President Farmajo talked about the need to encourage African Solutions to African Problems, and as such,  indicated his government’s willingness to see the AU take a leadership role in the facilitation of  an engagement process that would lead to dialogue amongst Somali stakeholders.”

The Minister emphasized that it would be a “Somali-led and Somali-owned” dialogue.

He said that President Tshisekedi was onboard with Farmajo’s suggestion of African solutions and talked about the need for continuity and political stability in Somalia.

“On his part, President Tshisekedi has talked about the need for continuity, political stability and development and has agreed with the notion of African Solutions to African problems.”

President Tshisekedi said that he welcomed the initiative proposed by Farmajo.

“Advocating African solutions to African problems, the Head of State welcomed  President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s approach to open up to the AU and to reach out to all Somali stakeholders for a just and lasting peace.”

On April 12, Somalia’s Lower House – or House of the People – voted to extend the federal government’s mandate for two years in a hurried session that barred political opponents from participating. Almost immediately, the legislation was rejected by Somalia’s Upper House and a coalition of opposition leaders, but it was signed into law by President Farmajo nonetheless.

The extension came after weeks of talks between the federal government and regional states on the implementation of the September 17 agreement collapsed. The federal government blamed Puntland and Jubaland for the breakdown in negotiations and said they insisted on meeting with preconditions. Puntland and Jubaland denied that they were the saboteurs and insisted that Farmajo adjourned the meeting without their consultation and that he was politically maneuvering for an extension.

Somalia’s international partners have firmly stated that they would only support the September 17 agreement and heavily criticized Farmajo’s move to extend his mandate. Both the US and the EU said they would consider reassessing their bilateral relationship and placing individuals on sanctions. Somalia accused the international community of leveraging aid as blackmail.

President Farmajo’s trip to Kinshasa is the first since the controversial term extension and could potentially be viewed as a sign to his opponents that he is still recognized as President despite their protest.

Furthermore, Farmajo’s advocacy of African Solutions may be an acknowledgement of his growing rift from traditional Western backers. Before he took off for Kinshasa, Farmajo met with top-level international diplomats that included Ambassadors from the EU, AU, UK and US.

Somalia’s international partners have played a key role in facilitating previous negotiations between the federal government and the regional states, but the federal government insisted that it could settle the electoral crisis through Somali-led talks and firmly rejected direct external mediation.

Sources previously reported that the two leaders would discuss Somali-Kenya relations, and although the exact details are unknown, the Foreign Minister confirmed that ‘continental issues’ were discussed. Relations between the two East African neighbours have been fraught but crescendoed last month during an International Court of Justice hearing on a maritime dispute.  It is unclear if Farmajo’s discussed his new ‘African solutions’ policy in this context.

President Farmajo’s trip to Kinshasa may strike many as odd, seeing as Somalia has almost no economic, political or cultural exchange with the DRC, but President Tshisekedi was elected the 2021 African Union Chairperson, and he met with Farmajo in this capacity. The African Union operates the AMISOM peacekeeping mission in Somalia and includes 20,000 soldiers. The drawdown was supposed to happen this year, but it has been pushed back to 2023.

Djibouti’s President Re-elected with 98.58 Percent of Vote

Djibouti’s President Re-elected with 98.58 Percent of Vote

 Source: Agence France-Presse published on 10 April 2021 an article titled “Veteran Ruler Guelleh Re-elected Djibouti Leader for Fifth Term.”

Djibouti re-elected Ismail Omar Guelleh for a fifth term with 98.58 percent of the vote against a little known businessman.  The voting went smoothly.  Djibouti’s main opposition parties boycotted the election.0 commentsLabels: DjiboutielectionsIsmail Omar Guellehpolitical parties

Somali president signs law extending mandate for two years

Somali president signs law extending mandate for two yearslinkedin sharing button

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Source: AFP, Wednesday April 14, 2021

Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has signed a controversial law extending his mandate for another two years, despite threats of sanctions from the international community.

State broadcaster Radio Mogadishu said the president, better known by his nickname Farmajo, had “signed into law the special resolution guiding the elections of the country after it was unanimously passed by parliament”.Somalia’s lower house of parliament on Monday voted to extend the president’s mandate after months of deadlock over the holding of elections in the fragile nation.

However the speaker of the Senate slammed the move as unconstitutional, and the resolution was not put before the upper house, which would normally be required, before being signed into law.

Farmajo and the leaders of Somalia’s five semi-autonomous federal states had reached an agreement in September that paved the way for indirect parliamentary and presidential elections in late 2020 and early 2021.

But it fell apart as squabbles erupted over how to conduct the vote, and multiple rounds of talks have failed to break the impasse.

US, UK consider reassessing bilateral relations with Somalia after Federal Government term extensions

US, UK consider reassessing bilateral relations with Somalia after Federal Government term extensionslinkedin sharing button

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Source: Hiiraan online, Wednesday April 14, 2021

Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s comments comes after President Farmajo formally signed into law a directive that would extend the federal government’s mandate for two years [File: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via AP]

Mogadishu (HOL) – The United States and the United Kingdom governments have voiced their opposition to the extension of Somalia’s presidential and parliamentary terms by two years. President Farmajo formally signed the legislation on Tuesday despite objection from Somalia’s Upper House of Parliament.

Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, said on Tuesday that his government was ‘deeply disappointed’ by the decision to extend the mandate without support from stakeholders.”We have stressed repeatedly that it is vital for the peace, stability, prosperity, and governance of Somalia that the Federal Government and the Federal Member States reach a consensus on a way forward for the electoral process. We have also made clear that the United States does not support mandate extensions without broad support from Somalia’s political stakeholders, nor does the United States support parallel or partial electoral processes.”

The statement went on to say that the action would undermine the partnership with the international community.

“Such actions would be deeply divisive, undermine the federalism process and political reforms that have been at the heart of the country’s progress and partnership with the international community, and divert attention away from countering al-Shabaab. They will also further delay holding the promised elections awaited by the Somali people.”

James Duddridge, The British is the Minister for Africa at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), said that the United Kingdom was “dismayed” and warned that a unilateral extension was not conducive to Somalia’s peace and security.

“We are dismayed by the decision of the Lower House of the Somali Parliament to extend the mandates of Mohamed Farmajo as President and of the Somali Parliament by two years. This is not a solution to the ongoing impasse on the electoral process, but instead a move that undermines the credibility of Somalia’s leadership and risks the safety and future of the Somali people.”

On Monday, 149 MPs in Somalia’s 275-member Lower House of Parliament voted to extend their terms and the mandate for the embattled President Farmajo for two years. The law also directed the nation’s electoral committee to oversee popular elections. Fifteen lawmakers who previously opposed term extensions were barred from Parliament.

The parliamentary term expired on December 27, 2020, while the President’s term ended on February 8, 2021.

The decision was quickly met with opposition from Somalia’s Upper House, who outright rejected the bill.

Farmajo formally signed the new directive into law on Tuesday afternoon.

Both the UK and the US said they would reassess their bilateral relationship with Somalia.

Blinken said that the US would consider sanctions and visa restrictions on individuals.

“Implementation of this bill will pose serious obstacles to dialogue and further undermine peace and security in Somalia. It will compel the United States to reevaluate our bilateral relations with the Federal Government of Somalia, to include diplomatic engagement and assistance, and to consider all available tools, including sanctions and visa restrictions, to respond to efforts to undermine peace and stability.”

Duddridge echoed that sentiment and said Somalia’s relationship with the broader international community would change.

“In the absence of consensus leading to inclusive and credible elections being held without further delay, the international community’s relationship with Somalia’s leadership will change. The UK will work with its international partners on a common approach to reevaluate our relationship and the nature of our assistance to Somalia.”

Both the US and UK urged restraint from Somalia’s government and political stakeholders and urged a return to talks between the federal and regional states.

Earlier on Tuesday, the European Union called the extension “a grave threat” to the region’s peace and security.

“The European Union believes that the passage and signing of this resolution will divide Somalia, impose additional delays and constitute a grave threat to the peace and stability of Somalia and its neighbours,” Borrell said in a statement.”

The Chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul and Congressman Gregory Meeks from New York have advocated that the US government place sanctions against those who “impede the democratic process.”

Cold War Brewing on the Blue Nile?

Cold War Brewing on the Blue Nile?

 Source:Bloomberg published on 8 April 2021 an article titled “A Cold War Is Brewing on the Blue Nile” by Amr Adly.  

The author argues that in the absence of an agreement on water release from the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the Blue Nile could become the theater of a riparian Cold War, with the possibility of confrontation involving Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan.  0 commentsLabels: border conflictCold WarEgyptEthiopiaGERDNile watersSudanTigray Region

Nile Water Talks in Kinshasa End Without Agreement

Nile Water Talks in Kinshasa End Without Agreement

 Reuters published on 6 April 2021 an article titled “Three-way Talks over Ethiopian Dam Fail in Kinshasa–Statements.”

The three day meeting in Kinshasa of the foreign ministers of Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan ended without any agreement on moving forward with the filling of the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile.  It is not clear what happens next.0 commentsLabels: AUBlue NileEgyptEthiopiaEUGERDmediationNile watersSudanUNUS

Lile Water Talks in Kinshasa End Without Agreement

ile Water Talks in Kinshasa End Without Agreement

 Source: Reuters published on 6 April 2021 an article titled “Three-way Talks over Ethiopian Dam Fail in Kinshasa–Statements.”

The three day meeting in Kinshasa of the foreign ministers of Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan ended without any agreement on moving forward with the filling of the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile.  It is not clear what happens next.0 commentsLabels: AUBlue NileEgyptEthiopiaEUGERDmediationNile watersSudanUNUS

Somaliland: The Horn of Africa’s New Wild Card

Somaliland: The Horn of Africa’s New Wild Cardlinkedin sharing button

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Source: International Policy Digest, Thursday April 8, 2021
By Cok Corrado

Guards remain vigilant at the 2010 Somaliland presidential inauguration./Teresa Krug

A new actor is jostling in the Horn of Africa. Somaliland, a self-declared breakaway republic of northern Somalia, scaled up its foreign policy in 2020 following years of lobbying for international recognition. Emboldened by its geopolitical centrality, leaders of Somaliland embraced a new quest for regional and international allies last year. Nevertheless, President Muse Bihi Abdi’s new strategy is set to build new ties while also breaking others. The ultimate result of this brinkmanship diplomacy remains to be seen.

The Republic of Somaliland separated from Somalia in 1991. Its ten-year conflict against Mogadishu had reached appalling levels of violence, such as the bombing of Hargeisa in May 1988. Therefore, when Somalia plunged into anarchy, Somaliland leaders carved out their enclave in northern Somalia and continued to enforce their autonomous rule in open defiance to Mogadishu. The latest round of talks between Mogadishu and Hargeisa took place last summer in Djibouti, but it quickly went awry. Somaliland’s foreign policy indirectly contributed to that outcome. Now, the Somali constitutional crisis further rules out an agreement between the two parties.
From Geo-economics to Geopolitics

Somaliland is a net beneficiary from power competition in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. As regional powers grew interested in this strategic waterway, ports became economic and security pivots. In parallel to its effort in Yemen, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) crossed the Gulf of Aden and landed in the historic port city of Berbera. Despite the ban from the Somali federal government, the Dubai-controlled DP World signed a 30-year concession with Somaliland authorities to develop and manage the port. In March 2021, Abu Dhabi appointed a career diplomat to its trade office in Hargeisa, which signaled its desire to maintain strong ties with the local authorities.

In March, DP World delivered three gantry cranes to Berbera as part of its programme to bring the port’s capacity to 500,000 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit), hence overtaking Djibouti’s container terminal with its 350,000-TEU capacity. So far, Djibouti maintains the upper hand due to its superior infrastructures serving the port—specifically, the Djibouti-Addis Ababa railway, its developed free trade zone, and the Chinese-built Doraleh Multipurpose Port, which opened in 2017. However, the Berbera port will enhance its competitiveness after completing the free trade zone by the Emirati company and the carriageway connecting Berbera to the Ethiopian border in 2022.

Landlocked Ethiopia is pivotal for Djibouti and Somaliland. Addis Ababa depends on the tiny outlet of Djibouti for 90 percent of its maritime imports. Therefore, it decided to diversify its commercial routes by investing in the port of Berbera. Since 2016, the Ethiopian government has owned 19 percent of the port’s share. Yet recent decisions have put Addis Ababa and Hargeisa at loggerheads. As part of his project to establish a regional order, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed built ties with Somalia’s central government in Mogadishu. However, this unprecedented strategy-change was perceived with hostility in Somaliland, which reacted by leveraging Ethiopia’s main fault line: the Nile dam dispute.

Money market in Hargeisa, Somaliland. (Fiona Graham/WorldRemit)

After the Ethiopian government scaled down diplomatic relations with Hargeisa in favor of Mogadishu, the president of Somaliland hosted an Egyptian delegation to discuss trade and investments in July 2020. The parties reportedly discussed the leasing of an Egyptian military base as well. The visit alarmed Addis Ababa. An Egyptian presence in a neighboring country would represent a strategic threat to Ethiopia. That was sufficient to convince Abiy Ahmed to send a delegation to re-establish full diplomatic relations that month. In September, another delegation of top security officials landed in Hargeisa to discuss further cooperation and, possibly, the creation of an Ethiopian naval base in place of the Egyptian. Addis Ababa has probably averted the threat of an Egyptian base on its doorstep for the time being. However, it will be increasingly difficult to balance the alliance with Mogadishu and Somaliland’s new posture.

Exploiting Disputes

Besides the Nile dam dispute, Somaliland’s authorities have shown shrewdness in exploiting regional and international divisions to advance their position abroad. Another case is the recent dispute between Kenya and Somalia. The diplomatic spat mainly revolves around the maritime border, relevant for the adjudication of oil and gas offshore fields, and Kenya’s support to the Somali border state of Jubaland, currently hostile to Mogadishu.

In mid-December, President Bihi visited Kenya and was received by President Uhuru Kenyatta as a normal head of state. During the bilateral meeting, the two presidents agreed to open a consulate in Hargeisa, set up direct flights, and launch cooperation initiatives in agriculture, livestock, energy, as well as between the ports of Mombasa and Berbera. In response, the Mogadishu government severed diplomatic ties with Nairobi, signaling its readiness to do the same with any other country which builds relations with Somaliland.

But the most surprising step taken this summer by President Bihi was recognizing Taiwan. On July 1, Taiwan’s foreign affairs minister made public the deal between Somaliland and Taiwan. Under the arrangement, both administrations agreed to open representative offices and foster cooperation across various sectors. China swiftly reacted by sending its ambassador to Somalia, Qin Jian, to Hargeisa. According to reports, the Chinese delegations made a series of concessions, including substantial infrastructure investment packages and the opening of a representative office. Nonetheless, President Muse Bihi Abdi declined the offer, receiving China’s harsh criticism and veiled threats.

Somaliland is the first African entity to so openly defy Beijing and the “One-China policy.” As an unrecognized entity, Somaliland cannot issue debt bonds on international markets. Therefore, it does not depend on China for debt financing like other African states, especially neighboring Djibouti and Ethiopia. China’s intensive fishing off Somaliland’s coast (authorized by Mogadishu only) was a relevant reason for attrition, but other factors entered the calculus. Djibouti is becoming the pivot of China’s penetration in the Horn of Africa and this might lead the U.S. to move out of Djibouti someday while keeping a military base close to Bab el-Mandab. The deal with Taiwan received an important endorsement from Washington. And against this background, Somaliland is showing its suitability as a geopolitical partner for the United States.

Another cleavage has recently (re)emerged: Somalia’s constitutional crisis. The impasse turned into a crisis on February 8, when the mandate of the Somali parliament and President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo, largely known as “Farmaajo,” expired without an agreement on the next elections between the Federal Government and Somali Member States. Among the issues on the table, there is the designation of delegates for Somaliland, who should vote for parliament and president in the elections and could prove decisive in the re-election (or the defeat) of President Farmaajo. Hargeisa has no say in the appointment of these delegates and is not directly involved in the confrontation. Yet, the isolation and distraction of Mogadishu’s government play into the hands of Somaliland that is expanding its diplomatic outreach across Africa, and has recently welcomed delegations from Malawi and Zambia to discuss bilateral cooperation.

Somaliland’s brinkmanship strategy risks further destabilizing an already turbulent region. Like other states in the Horn of Africa, Hargeisa exploited the divide between the UAE-Saudi Arabia and Qatar-Turkey axes, obtaining a fruitful partnership with the former. Yet President Bihi also openly distanced Somaliland from China and anchored it in the American sphere. This decision is unprecedented in the Horn of Africa since all other countries have, to some extent, opened their doors to China given Washington’s gradual retreat from the region.

This strategy is fraught with dangers. First, China is present economically and militarily in the Gulf of Aden, as well as in all Somaliland’s neighbors, whereas the U.S. is not expected to double down its engagement in the region. This leaves plenty of room for retaliation to Beijing. Furthermore, Hargeisa complicates its relations with its allies since both the UAE and Ethiopia enjoy strong partnerships with China. Ethiopia, in particular, will have to compete for influence in Somaliland with its most bitter enemy, Egypt, while maintaining strong ties with Djibouti and Somalia at the same time. In addition to the China-Somaliland rift, the UAE will have to manage the growing tensions between Somaliland and the Somali state of Puntland, another Emirati ally in Somalia. Puntland and Somaliland have long clashed over the areas of Sanaag and Sool and a recent uptick of violence shows that the situation continues to deteriorate unabated.

In brief, Somaliland’s new diplomacy risks deepening polarisation around the U.S.-China competition and intensifying hostilities between regional actors in the Horn of Africa.

Somalia’s international partners issue joint-statement

Somalia’s international partners issue joint-statementlinkedin sharing button

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Source: Hiiraan Online, Tuesday April 6, 2021

Mogadishu (HOL) – A host of international partners have issued a joint statement appealing to Somali leaders to resolve the electoral crisis ahead of the Holy month of Ramadan.

“Noting the importance of the planned FGS-FMS summit, international partners urge that this Somali-led and Somali-owned dialogue lead to the resolution of all outstanding issues and permit implementation of the September 17 electoral process. Such an agreement, symbolizing unity, compassion, and care for others, would demonstrate leadership and concern for the Somali nation and offer a special Ramadan gift to the people of Somalia.The letter appeals to the Muslim sentiment of the leaders.

“As Somalis prepare to welcome the Holy Month of Ramadan, international partners express hope that the basic tenets of reflection, tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation will usher in a successful summit of the Federal Government and Federal Member State leaders.”

Somalia’s international partners have been working for months to bring the Federal Member States and the Federal Government of Somalia to the negotiating table. They have grown vocal in recent weeks and have raised their concerns in several press releases. Despite the international efforts to broker a compromise, a deal is still not yet on the horizon.

“We urge FGS and FMS leaders to use this opportunity to resolve their differences and make the necessary compromises in order to ensure that credible, timely, and peaceful elections can be held without further delay to allow Somalia to move forward.”

The letter was signed by representatives from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Djibouti, Ethiopia, European Union (EU), Finland, France, Germany, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Ireland, Italy, Japan League of Arab States (LAS), Netherlands, Norway, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Russia, Qatar, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, and the United Nations.

Somalia fell into a constitutional crisis after its federal mandate expired on February 8 without an agreement to hold parliamentary and presidential elections.

Eritrea’s Goals in the Red Sea Basin

Eritrea’s Goals in the Red Sea Basin

 Source: The International Crisis Group posted on 6 April 2021 a 45-minute podcast titled “What Eritrea Wants” with Alan Boswell and Harry Verhoeven, a scholar on international politics in Africa.

Following the political transition in Ethiopia and Eritrea’s alliances with Gulf states across the Red Sea, Asmara is looking to shape the region in its favor.  According to Verhoeven, Eritrean President Isaias believes the current conflict in Tigray Region is creating new political and security imbalances in the Horn of Africa that open the door to even more conflict.  Isaias is a realist who primarily acts to protect what he has built in Eritrea.0 commentsLabels: Abiy AhmedAmhara nationalismborder conflictEritreaEthiopiaIGADIsaias AfewerkiMeles ZenawiQatarRed SeaSaudi ArabiaSomaliaSudanTPLFUAEUSYemen

Is Ethiopia Stuck in a Guerrilla War in Tigray Region?

Is Ethiopia Stuck in a Guerrilla War in Tigray Region?

 Source: The Guardian published on 4 April 2021 an article titled “Ethiopia Is Fighting ‘Difficult and Tiresome’ Guerrilla War in Tigray, Says PM” by Jason Burke.

After declaring a couple of months ago a decisive victory in Ethiopia’s “police action” in Tigray Region, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has now acknowledged Ethiopian central government forces are engaged in a guerrilla war that is “difficult and tiresome.”

Comment:  The outcome may well depend on how long Eritrean forces are willing to commit significant numbers of troops to the conflict in support of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces and whether they can maintain morale in a foreign war.0 commentsLabels: Abiy AhmedAmhara militiaatrocitiesEritreaEthiopiaguerrilla warTigray RegionTigrayan Defense ForcesTPLF

Kenya’s Plan to Close Two Camps Worries Refugees

Kenya’s Plan to Close Two Camps Worries Refugeeslinkedin sharing button

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Source: VOA, By Harun Maruf, Khadar Hared
Saturday April 3, 2021
FILE - A mother and daughter walk at the Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya, March 5, 2018.
A mother and daughter walk at the Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya, March 5, 2018.

The Kenya Interior Ministry’s announcement last week of its intention to close two major camps has increased uncertainty for hundreds of thousands of refugees, leaving many of them distraught.

“I am not ready to be repatriated to Somalia,” fretted Muslima Abdullahi, an 80-year-old woman living in Hagadera, part of the Dadaab refugee complex in northeastern Kenya.   “I have nine orphaned children here,” she added. Years ago, terrified by insecurity, she left her homeland and she’s wary of returning now. “My house has been taken. I have no property or livestock. I don’t have a job ahead of me. I am not ready for the process” of repatriation.   

Ready or not, Kenya’s government says she and other refugees will have no choice but to leave the country. On March 24, Interior Minister Fred Matiangi announced Kenya had given the U.N. Refugee Agency 14 days to present a plan to close Dadaab and Kakuma camps.

There would be “no room for further negotiations,” Matiangi’s official Twitter account said.

CS @FredMatiangi issues UNHCR with 14 day ultimatum to have road map on definite closure of Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps. Says no room for further negotiations.— Ministry of Interior (@InteriorKE) March 24, 2021

Dadaab and Kakuma camps, both located in northern Kenya, together shelter more than 410,000 refugees and asylum-seekers. More than half of their population come from Somalia and roughly a quarter from South Sudan. The rest come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Sudan and elsewhere in the region. 

Abdullahi Osman Haji was among the first refugees to arrive at Dadaab nearly 30 years ago, driven from Somalia by civil war. He married in the camp and has been raising 12 children there. He longs for Somalia but considers that unrealistic, given its fragile government and the ongoing threat of al-Shabab terrorist attacks.     

Map of Kakuma and Dadaab camps, Kenya
Kakuma and Dadaab camps, Kenya

“Closing the camps will have [an] adverse impact on us,” Haji said of refugees.    

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) shares that concern. It issued a statement last week saying the decision would affect “the protection of refugees in Kenya, including in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”   

The UNHCR said it was ready to support Kenya’s government in strengthening ongoing efforts “to find solutions that are orderly, sustainable and respect refugee rights.”    

Kenya’s announcement came without explanation about why it seeks the camps’ closures now. VOA made repeated but unsuccessful attempts to get a comment from Kenyan officials.    

The Nairobi government in 2016 had called for shuttering Dadaab, after intelligence reports indicated two major al-Shabab attacks in 2013 and 2015 had involved participants from within the camp, but no evidence linking the camps with al-Shabab has been publicly released. Kenya’s High Court ruled in early 2017 that closing the camp would be unconstitutional.     

Somalia’s ambassador to Kenya, Mohamud Ahmed Nur, accuses Kenya of politicizing refugee affairs. He contends Kenya’s ultimatum on the camps “is because of the maritime dispute.”    

That border disagreement, festering for years, is over control of a 100,000-square-kilometer stretch of the Indian Ocean, which contains an abundance of fish in its waters and possible oil and gas deposits below. The case went before The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) in mid-March, though Kenya refused to attend the weeklong hearing. The ICJ, the United Nations’ highest court, could take months to reach a decision.

Aden Barre Duale, a lawmaker and former majority leader in Kenya’s National Assembly as well as an ethnic Somali, thinks the maritime dispute may have been a factor in his government’s call for the camp closing. But he doesn’t support the measure.     

“This case is not legal, not implementable,” Duale said.   

He represents the northeast Kenyan area in which Dadaab is located. His constituents and “their leaders, religious leaders … do not have any problems with the Somali community.”    

Financial strain   

Both Dadaab and Kakuma camps opened in the 1990s, offering UNHCR-administered havens to people fleeing civil wars and strife in Somalia and Sudan. Another wave of Somalis arrived in Kenya in 2011, driven from their homeland by drought and swelling their numbers to nearly half-a-million. The number of refugees in Dadaab declined to the current figure of 230,000 after a 2013 agreement among Kenya, Somalia and the UNHCR supporting refugees returning voluntarily to Somalia.

UNHCR refugee programs in Kenya and elsewhere are feeling the strain of insufficient funding, Glenn Jusnes, a spokesperson for UNHCR Kenya, told VOA in an email response.    

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the already dire humanitarian needs globally – particularly in the low and middle-income countries that are currently hosting more than 85% of the world’s refugees,” he wrote.    

The related economic slowdown has hurt. In the 2020 calendar year, UNHCR Kenya received $94 million – some $70 million less than it had sought, Jusnes said. For 2021, it had received approximately $33 million as of March 9, leaving a funding gap of more than $116 million.

Globally, the UNHCR’s 2020 budget was over $9.1 billion but it received some $5.2 billion, leaving a 43% funding gap, Jusnes said. He noted that underfunding cuts into the UNHCR’s protection, assistance and resilience activities.      

In Kenya, infrastructure and road improvement projects in the Kakuma refugee camp and the nearby Kalobeyei settlement were suspended in early 2020. “Poor road conditions … have complicated access and assistance to refugees,” and “significant amounts” of money have gone to vehicle repairs instead of to direct aid to refugees and host communities, Jusnes said.    

Little choice 

While Kenya wants to close the camps, residents of Dadaab and Kakuma say they have no safe alternatives.    

Shamsa Mohamed Aden was among the refugees who voluntarily returned in 2017 to Kismayo, her southeastern Somali hometown. But she and her household, including four children, “couldn’t get the essentials of life, such as education and clean water.”

They recently returned to Hagadera, a camp in the Dadaab refugee complex, and Aden is reluctant to go back. She said of herself, “All Shamsa can do is to wait for UNHCR’s help again.”   

This report originated in VOA’s Somali Service. Harun Maruf reported from Washington; and stringers Abdiaziz Barrow and Khadar Hared contributed from Mogadishu and Nairobi, respectively. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali contributed reporting from Dadaab refugee camp.

Somali leaders converge for electoral talks as international community demands way forward

Somali leaders converge for electoral talks as international community demands way forwardlinkedin sharing button

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Source: Hiraan Online, Saturday April 3, 2021

MOGADISHU (HOL) – The much awaited meeting between President Mohamed Farmaajo and Federal Member State leaders has kicked off in Mogadishu this morning raising expectations of an electoral deal.

The leaders arrived at the air force hangar in Afiysoni area about 10am after several weeks of push and pull.

Information Minister Osman Dubbe called the meeting an ‘icebreaker’ convened by Farmaajo.
The international community has however pilled pressure on the leaders as the ongoing gridlock plunges the country into uncertainty.
The meeting was expected to start early last month under the auspices of the international community but failed to owing to thelack of agreement on the agenda of the meeting.

The UN Security Council this week called for ‘urgent’ elections as western envoys and the African Union heightened pressure on the federal and state leaders.

It was not immediately clear if the two sides-Farmaajo faction and the Jubbaland-Puntland camp had settled the contentious issues which included the inclusion of the opposition, legitimacy of the presidency and parliament owing to term lapse among others.

The debate and endorsement of the Baidoa Framework which provides an implementation plan for the September Agreement is expected to feature prominently during the meeting.

Both Jubbaland and Puntland have demanded the September deal be relooked by the international community and federal government have stood ground against further debate on the deal.

Regulating Conventional Arms in Middle East and Horn of Africa

Regulating Conventional Arms in Middle East and Horn of Africa

Source:  Manara Magazine published on 16 March 2021 an article titled “Opportunities to Regulate Conventional Arms in the Middle East and Horn of Africa” by Rachel Stohl and Ryan Fletcher.  

The article considers the opportunities and challenges that exist to better regulate the flow of conventional weapons in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.  It examines the international mechanisms and regulatory architecture that exist to regulate the conventional arms trade, considers the extent to which these can be applied to regulate weapons flows, and offers recommendations for increasing participation and supporting implementation of these instruments to combat the unregulated trade in conventional arms.0 commentsLabels: arms salesArms Trade TreatyBiden administrationEgyptHorn of AfricaMiddle EastSALWSaudi ArabiaUAEUN Register of Conventional ArmsYemen

Ethiopia Needs a Constitutional Convention

Ethiopia Needs a Constitutional Convention

 Source: Source: Foreign Policy posted on 1 April 2021 a commentary titled “Ethiopia Needs a Constitutional Convention” by Adem K. Abebe, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in the Netherlands.

The author argues that Ethiopia is in crisis and the way out of its many problems is a constitutional convention and process-oriented national dialogue.0 commentsLabels: Abiy AhmedBenishangul-Gumuz RegionconstitutionCOVID-19EPRDFEthiopiaethnic federalismGERDgovernanceOromiaProsperity PartySudanTigray RegionTPLF

Africa and the 2021 World Happiness Report

Africa and the 2021 World Happiness Report

Source: The World Happiness Report 2021 has just been released, which includes a ranking of happiness covering the years 2018-2020.  The focus of the report is a measurement of subjective well-being, which relies on three main indicators: life evaluations, positive emotions, and negative emotions.

The report gives the highest ranking to Finland.  The United States ranks in position number 19.  The highest scoring African country is Mauritius in position 50, followed by Libya at 80, and Republic of Congo at 83.  Seven of the ten lowest ranked countries are in Africa: Burundi (140), Tanzania (142), Malawi (144), Lesotho (145), Botswana (146), Rwanda (147), and Zimbabwe (148).0 commentsLabels: COVID-19LibyaMauritiusRepublic of Congosubjective well beingWorld Happiness Report

Ethiopia’s War in Tigray: A Deadly Military Stalemate

Ethiopia’s War in Tigray: A Deadly Military Stalemate

 Source: The International Crisis Group (ICG) published on 2 April 2021 an analysis titled “Ethiopia’s Tigray War: A Deadly, Dangerous Stalemate.”  

The ICG report predicts a protracted conflict in Tigray Region.  All sides are fixated on securing a military victory, which seems unlikely.  Urgent measures are needed to prevent a tragedy.   0 commentsLabels: Abiy AhmedAmhara militiaatrocitiesENDFEritreaEritrean Defense ForcesEthiopiahumanitarian crisisIsaias AfewerkiTigray Defense ForcesTigray RegionTPLFTsadkan Gebre Tensae

In stark warning, Egypt leader says Nile water ‘untouchable

In stark warning, Egypt leader says Nile water ‘untouchablelinkedin sharing button

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Source: AP, , Wednesday March 31, 2021

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi holds a news conference with the Chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan Gen. Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman al-Burhan at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum, Sudan, Saturday, March. 6, 2021. Egypt’s presidency says President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi trip was to address an array of issues, including economic and military ties and the two nations’ dispute with Ethiopia over a massive dam Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile. The visit comes amid a rapprochement between the two governments. (Presidency of Sudan via AP)

ISMAILIA, Egypt (AP) — Egypt’s president said Tuesday his country’s share of the Nile River’s waters are “untouchable” in a stark warning apparently to Ethiopia, which is building a giant dam on the Nile’s main tributary.

The comment from President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi comes amid a deadlock in the yearslong talks over the dam between the Nile Basin countries, which also includes Sudan.

In a news conference, el-Sissi warned of “instability that no one can imagine” in the region if the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is filled and operated without a legally binding agreement.No one can take a single drop of water from Egypt, and whoever wants to try it, let him try,” he said. “No one imagines that it will be far from our capabilities.”

El-Sissi did not name Ethiopia in his remarks, the strongest on the dam’s dispute by an Egyptian official in years.

A media officer at the the Ethiopian Embassy in Cairo declined to comment on el-Sissi’s remarks.

The Egyptian leader was firm while discussing the dam dispute at a news conference in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia. He visited the crucial, east-west waterway following its reopening Monday. It had been closed for six days after a hulking container ship became stuck in the waterway.

“I repeat that the waters of Egypt are untouchable, and touching them is a red line,” he said.

However, el-Sissi said his country prioritizes negotiations to resolve the lingering dispute before Ethiopia continues filling the dam’s giant reservoir during this year’s rainy season. Addis Ababa began filling the reservoir last July, a move that was strongly criticized by Egypt and Sudan.

“Our battle is a battle of negotiations,” the Egyptian leader said, adding that Cairo seeks a legally binding agreement based on international laws and norms that govern cross-border rivers.

“We are serious about achieving a win-win (deal) for everyone, no one is going to get everything alone,” he said.

El-Sissi said a new round of negotiations is expected in the coming weeks. He did not elaborate further on whether international players would join the talks as mediators as Khartoum and Cairo have demanded.

Ethiopia has rejected an Egyptian-backed Sudanese proposal to internationalize the dispute by including the U.S., U.N. and European Union as mediators in talks that have been mediated by the African Union.

The dispute centers on the speed at which a planned reservoir is filled behind the dam, the method of its annual replenishment, and how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multi-year drought occurs. Another point of difference is how the three countries would settle any future disputes.

Egypt and Sudan call for a legally binding agreement on the dam’s filling and operation, while Ethiopia insists on guidelines.

Egypt is a mostly desert country that depends on the Nile for almost all of its water needs. It fears that a quick fill would drastically reduce the Nile’s flow, with potentially severe effects on its agriculture and other sectors.

Ethiopia says the $5 billion dam is essential, arguing the vast majority of its population lacks electricity. The dam will generate over 6,400 megawatts of electricity, a massive boost to the country’s current production of 4,000 megawatts.

Sudan wants Ethiopia to coordinate and share data on the dam’s operation to avoid flooding and protect its own power-generating dams on the Blue Nile, the main tributary of the Nile River. The Blue Nile meets with the White Nile in central Sudan. From there the Nile winds northward through Egypt and flows into the Mediterranean Sea.

Kenyan pilot escape to Somalia sparks fears of air attack

Kenyan pilot escape to Somalia sparks fears of air attacklinkedin sharing button

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Source: theSTAR, Thursday April 1, 2021

Police urge the public to give information if he is seen anywhere

Kenyan security agents are on alert over a missing pilot who escaped to Somalia.

There are fears Rashid Mwalimu, who is a trained pilot, may sneak back to Kenya on a mission and police want the public to help them in arresting him.

“He is wanted by the Anti-Terrorism Police. He is a trained pilot on mission to carry out aviation attack. Currently, he is in Somalia and is planning on how to sneak back into Kenya. If seen, report to any nearest security agency,” police said in an This follows a series of events that have seen al Shabaab suffer major setbacks in Somalia following persistent airstrikes which have killed commanders and middle-level operatives in good measure.

According to the police, as a way of revenging the airstrikes, al Shabaab embarked on training pilots for an international aviation attack.

They identified amongst their ranks foreign fighters that had some good level of education for specialised training. Amongst them, two were selected for training as pilots, including Cholo Abdi Abdulla and Mwalimu.

Security sources indicate that Abdulla and Mwalimu were close friends and joined al Shabaab in 2015 where they trained and conducted attacks in Somalia before being sent to Boni forest.

Their educational background turned out to be higher than the other operatives and therefore were selected by the terror group for the aviation course.

A security source has revealed that between 2015 and 2016 both Mwalimu and Abdulla were involved in IED attacks in Boni area of Lamu county.

The two were also close associates of the leader of the dusitD2 attack, Salim Gichunge, aka Faruq.

Mwalimu, Abdulla and Gichunge arrived in Somalia at the same time and were immediately set aside for training as part of the al Shabaab intelligence, the Amniyat.

While on training, they met up with Osman Gedi another dusitD2 attacker. The four formed a close bond and were always together.

When the airstrikes began in earnest, al Shabaab picked on the four for external attack. Gichunge and GedI were selected for an attack in Kenya, while Mwalimu and Abdulla were picked to train as pilots and subsequently be deployed to hijack aircrafts.

Abdulla was subsequently arrested on July 1, 2019 in the Philippines where he had been studying aviation at All-Aisa aviation Academy in Philippines.

According to US authorities on December 16, 2020, Abdulla is facing six counts of terrorism-related offences arising from his activities as an al Shabaab member, including conspiring to hijack an aircraft to conduct a 9/11 style of attack in the US.

He was arrested in Philippines and was subsequently transferred to the custody of US law enforcement for prosecution.

As part of the dissembling efforts and attempts to fit in, and contrary to any claim al Shabaab has on religious piety, Mwalimu and Abdulla lived luxurious lifestyles partaking of alcohol and living promiscuously while on training.

This behaviour was actually sanctioned by top al Shabaab echelons who advise its trainees to live liberally and ensure they fit in.

For instance, Abdulla had a girlfriend from one of the Asian countries who was his classmate, even after she left college, he maintained a long distance relationship. Mwalimu, for his part, lived to his true self as a womaniser, dating several women at a go and lavishing them with money obtained forcibly by al Shabaab from poor populations in Somalia.

They were allowed unlimited access to money, and would fly to various destinations as tourists on first class rates, partly as a way of checking the security arrangement around the cockpit.

Mwalimu and Abdulla have acquired a level of expertise where they can navigate a plane while airborne and as such should never be allowed on board an aircraft.

Indeed, according to security officials they had already completed their training and were conversant with flying and landing planes and all mechanical application in a plane though they had not acquired international licences.

However, for a successful attack, all they needed to do was board a plane as ordinary passengers and thus licences would not be a hindrance to an attack.

Their reckless behaviour is what led the security agents to their trail as they dropped their guard and let out their little and big secrets.

Mwalimu revealed operational information, which in turn blew up his and Abdulla’s cover.

Unfortunately, while Abdulla was arrested, Mwalimu managed to escape back to Somalia after learning of the arrest and cunningly lied about what could have led to security agents bursting their plot.

Police have released a photo of Mwalimu and have urged the public to be vigilant and give information if he is sighted anywhere.

The security agents recognise the cooperation that the public have extended in the war against terrorism, which has led to disruption of many plots and urges the public to continue with this partnership.

-Edited by Sarah Kanyara