Sunday, March 29, 2015

Featured

Police investigate at the scene on 85th Street SW just above the Canada Olympic Park ski jumps where a body was found overnight Wednesday March 25, 2015.

The man whose body was found near the ski jump area of Canada Olympic Park early Wednesday morning was a happy and “joyous” person who stayed out of trouble, according to a local imam who knew his family.

Imam Abdi Hersy has identified the man as 25-year-old Mohameddek Ali Mohamud. He’s spoken with members of Mohamud’s family, and said they are “devastated” at the news.

“This young man was very loving, caring, and someone who was extremely happy, joyous, always smiling,” Hersy said. “Someone that always ensures his mom is doing ok. Someone who was always involved in the community.”

Police are now asking for the public’s help in their investigation into what they say is a suspicious death.

Mohamud’s body was discovered around 2:30 a.m. by someone walking near 85th Street and Canada Olympic View S.W.

According to Hersy, Mohamud was working as a roofer and was trying to get into the trades.

“He had a big dream ahead of him,” Hersy said. “He had all his future ahead. His life was cut short.”

It’s not clear how Mohamud died or whether he was killed near the scene where his body was found, said Duty Inspector Paul Wyatt.

Hersy said Mohamud left his house shortly before midnight after receiving a call from someone he knew. He promised to come right back but never returned.

Police are asking for the public’s help in determining what happened to Mohamud.

“It is a secluded area, so anyone around 85th Street, Canada Olympic View, we’re looking for assistance between 6 p.m. last night and 3 a.m. (Wednesday) morning,” Wyatt said.

“Anything unusual, any sights, sounds, vehicles, anything out of the ordinary, we’d love to hear from you because it may be the lead we’re looking for.”

Mohamud is the third man of Somali descent to be killed in Calgary this year. His is the 59th death of a member of Alberta’s Somali community in the last eight years, Hersy said.

“We’re not hopeful now, and that’s not good,” he said. “We don’t know what to do, we don’t know what to say.”

“Who’s next? That’s what comes to my mind all the time.”

estark@calgaryherald.com

Twitter.com/erikamstark

chinese kenya

The Guardian — The owner of a Chinese restaurant in Nairobi that operated a “no Africans” policy has been arrested after media reports about the establishment triggered an outcry on social media.
Zhao Yang was charged with operating a restaurant without a valid licence only hours after the Daily Nation, Kenya’s biggest newspaper, published a front-page story about the restaurant.

Co-owner Esther Zhao told the newspaper that Africans posed a security risk and needed to be kept out after 5pm. “We don’t admit Africans that we don’t know because you never know who is al-Shabaab and who isn’t,” she said, referring to the Somali-based terror group blamed for a number of attacks in Kenya in recent years.

“It is not like it is written on somebody’s face that they are a thug armed with a gun.”

Staff were quoted saying the restaurant’s security detail were under strict instruction not to let in any Africans in the evening, although one or two “loyal customers” were allowed.

The story triggered outrage across the internet. Under the hashtag #noblacksallowed, Twitter users called for the restaurant to be shut down.

“I don’t understand how this article isn’t ironic. This can’t be real,” one reader, Aisha, said. Most commentators demanded the deportation of the restaurant owners.

“There is a proverb, loosely translated, which says ‘if you hate the cow, you should also shun leather’,” one said. “Let the Chinese go do this in China. This is Kenya, and if there is something they do not like, they are free to leave.”

Like most countries on the continent, there has been an extraordinary rise in Chinese economic engagement in Kenya over the past decade. Trade volumes have grown from $186.37m (£125m) in 2002 to $3.27bn in 2013, and the growing number of Chinese migrants has been accompanied by the mushrooming of numerous Chinese-operated restaurants and hotels.

Although many Kenyans have welcomed Beijing’s investment in major infrastructure projects including a new $5.2bn railway to replace the track built by the British more than a century ago, some Chinese have been blamed for a rise in poaching in the country’s national parks.

Zhao faces a prison term of 18 months or a fine of more than $1,000 if found guilty of operating the restaurant without a licence.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights called on any Kenyans who had been barred from the restaurant to get in touch because it planned to lodge a civil suit.

obama

We write to express strong support for the President’s request of $87.7 million in Economic Support Funds (ESF) to support the formation of legitimate, durable institutions that will enhance stability and economic development in Somalia. The country is at a critical juncture and we need to provide meaningful assistance in order to build upon the economic and security gains achieved over the last several years. We urge you to prioritize assistance to this fragile country by providing the full amount requested by the President.
Poverty, weak institutions, lack of economic opportunity, and radical ideology all directly contribute to and foment instability and conflict. The U.S. has a long history of investing in and

supporting political and economic development in impoverished countries. In order to do this effectively, we need to use our foreign policy tools in a balanced manner and focus our assistance on building governnent institutions and strengthening civic capacity.

us

Over the past several years, significant gains have been made against Al-Shabaab with the help of U.S. contributions to the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the countries that are a part

of that force. However, this assistance needs to be matched by a robust investment in capacity building and support for legitimate and capable government institutions, which area pre-requisite

for long-term stability in Somalia. In FY2014, the United States provided $21.6 million in ESF to help Somalia’s new government expand its presence beyond the capital of Mogadishu and

begin providing basic services to its people. Somalia is working to repair the negative effects of 20 years of state collapse, widespread violence, and lawlessness. As a result, rebuilding state

capacity and fostering a peaceful political system will be a long-term project. We must be willing to make the commitment necessary to help the people of Somalia undertake that project.

The need to invest in strong institutions and capacity building in Somalia has been made clear by the current situation surrounding remittance flows to Somalia from countries like the U.S.,

United Kingdom, and Australia. In March, the largest financial institution that handled the majority of money transfers from the U.S. to Somalia closed the accounts of all Somali-

American Money Transfer Operators (MTO). Without banking services, many of these MTOs have been forced to limit their operations, leaving the Somali diaspora in the U.S. with a lack of a secure means to send funds to their loved ones back home. While there are domestic regulatory reasons for this situation, a core complicating factor is Somalia’s lack of a strong central bank and the robust regulatory institutions necessary to participate in the world banking system.

Last year, Salaama Somali Bank became the first Somali lender to handle foreign transactions, which is an encouraging sign that the country is stabilizing after decades of conflict. Although there is a long way to go before Somalia has a functioning banking system or thriving economy, this is progress we need to encourage and support with our assistance. Failure to adequately invest in Somalia’s political and economic development risks undermining the fragile gains that have been made and losing the hundreds of millions of dollars the U.S. has invested to date.

Thank you for considering fully funding ESF for Somalia in Fiscal Year 2016. We appreciate the challenges your Subcommittee faces and look forward to working with you to craft a FY 016

State Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that gives fragile countries like Somalia the tools they need to build stable, democratic governing institutions.

 

We all know Somali women are one of the most attractive women. But have you seen when their mothers and grandmothers were young and elegant?.

CTV — This film charts the United Nations’ story in Somalia from 1992, when, faced with overwhelming conflict and hostility, they began to withdraw on-the-ground support.

Ethiopia

(CNN)It’s called the Grand Renaissance Dam — and the clue is in the name. With some 8,500 laborers working around the clock on its construction, the imposingly-named dam is surely one of Africa’s most ambitious infrastructure projects, reaffirming Ethiopia’s ambitions of becoming a big regional player and a major exporter of power. 

When completed, the project will generate around 6,000 megawatts of electricity for both domestic use and exports.

The most striking aspect of the nearly $5 billion enterprise is, however, that it is entirely funded by Ethiopia, without any foreign investment. According to the authorities, 20% of the project is financed from bond offerings to Ethiopians, and the remaining 80% from tax collection.

“Without electricity there won’t be industrialization in Africa”, Zemedeneh Negatu

“It was seen as a strategically important initiative that the government and the Ethiopian people are financing it 100%,” says Zemedeneh Negatu, managing partner at Ernst & Young Ethiopia.

“They have come up with a very creative and innovative way that I think will be a lesson for other African countries who want to embark on such large infrastructure projects, and want to have the flexibility to do it themselves,” he adds.

Hydroelectric powerhouse

So far, Ethiopians at home and abroad have contributed about $350 million, and the government says that the 170 meter tall dam is on track for a 2017 opening, with 40% of the work already complete.

Ethiopia’s per capita income might be one of the lowest in the world, but the country has enjoyed an impressive economic growth since 2000, averaging 10.9% annually, which has resulted in a 33% reduction of people living in poverty.

If the Grand Renaissance Dam and other hydroelectric projects, such as the Gibe III dam on the Omo river, are completed on time, The World Bank estimates Ethiopia could earn $1 billion a year from electricity exports. Negatu says that this would make the country the largest exporter of power in Africa, and second only to South Africa when it comes to installed capacity.

Unhappy neighbors

Yet, not everyone is happy about Ethiopia’s energetic drive to harness its water resources. The Grand Renaissance Dam is being built on Blue Nile, a tributary of the Nile River which has been powering the agriculture of Sudan and Egypt — through which it flows — for millennia. These countries have opposed the project in the past, fearing that the dam will reduce their share of the Nile water. The ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi had even threatened to defend “each drop of Nile water with our blood if necessary” back in 2013.

Passions have been calmer more recently, and today the Reuters news agency reported that representatives of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia reached a preliminary agreement in Khartoum on how to operate the dam. Negatu is convinced that a compromise will be reached, as he thinks that the dam will ultimately benefit not just Ethiopia but most other East African nations.

It’s Africa’s Achilles’ heel. With anyone who wants to build a factory in Africa, the first thing they ask is infrastructure, and within infrastructure, whether there is sufficient electricity.

“This is actually a regional project because up from Egypt all the way down to Rwanda, countries are going to buy the power that’s generated by this dam,” Negatu says, adding that both Rwanda and Kenya have already agreed to purchase thousands of megawatts once the project is finished.

A lack of reliable power has long stunted Africa’s development, with 600 million people on the continent not connected to the grid and getting by on a mix of generators, kerosene lamps and candles. In Ethiopia, only 15 to 20% of the population has access to power according to a study by Chatham House.

“It’s Africa’s Achilles’ heel,” says Negatu. “With anyone who wants to build a factory in Africa, the first thing they ask is infrastructure, and within infrastructure, whether there is sufficient electricity. Industrialization has always been about electricity, and this [dam] addresses this basic need.”

He adds that, after depending on exporting raw commodities for decades, governments across Africa should be pursuing a strategy of industrialization, following the example of China.

“We’ve got to move up the value chain, and it’s what Ethiopia is doing right now. Its strategy is industrial-based — not to export commodities but to manufacture value-added things, and other African nations are trying to emulate that. But without electricity there won’t be industrialization in Africa.”

Somalia, Hunger

VOA – NAIROBI— Somalia is the only country to have suffered two famines in recent history.  Its farming and livestock industries are strong but political turmoil and ongoing violence leave populations vulnerable to food insecurity.

In some ways, Kassim Abdikadir is lucky. He works on farms around Afgooye, near Mogadishu, and earns money he can use at the local market.  And when he goes to that market, there is food in the stalls.

But in Somalia, as in many food-insecure countries, the story is never quite that simple.

The price of food in the market is so expensive, says Abdikadir, that he cannot even afford to buy grains to feed his children.

Somalia’s last famine, in 2011, killed an estimated 250,000 people and the United Nations calculates that about three million are still in need of some form of food aid.

Somalia is certainly an arid country, and the rains do sometimes fail.  But recently the rains have been normal, and the land is capable of growing crops.  In some areas food production is even up, enough that the United Nations is considering buying grain from Somali farmers.

Logistics, access problems

So why is Somalia so chronically food-insecure? World Food Program in Somalia head Laurent Bukera says one reason is simple logistics.

“We have productive regions where some sort of harvest can take place.  But the movement [from] some of the areas where there is food to other areas where there is no food is cut off by logistical access constraints.  We still have a lot in Somalia of supply roads which are cut off,” says Bukera.

Somalia has endured more than 20 years of chaos and violence, and more recently, militants from al-Shabab have blocked major supply ways.  Several years of military operations by the national army and African Union forces have reopened some but not all of these critical routes.

Bukera explains that this continues to impact the production of food, because when a country is unstable, farmers are not always able to work.

“Oftentimes [they] have to flee leaving behind all their belongings, leaving behind their animals, cows, goats which can give them milk, but also leaving behind everything they have planted,” says Bukera.

With more than a million people in Somalia internally displaced, they simply do not have access to their land, he adds, and at the moment Somalia only grows about half the food it needs.

Shortages in towns, cities

The result is a shortage of food in towns and cities, where even those with a little income cannot always afford skyrocketing food prices, says Ed Pomfret of Oxfam’s Somalia program.

“In certain cities in Somalia we have seen food prices go up four times when there’s been a conflict happening around it.  Even if the market is working, the conflict causes displacement and it does cause difficulties in terms of food supply into the markets,” says Pomfret.

This is not to say that climatic factors do not play a role as well, he adds, as erratic rainfall and encroaching desertification make life more and more difficult for farmers and herders.

But Somalia’s food situation is complex, says Pomfret, and any solution must be multi-faceted.

“Tackling the climate change agenda, making sure that we put in place climate change adaptation measures, and also creating a more peaceful Somalia are all factors that will help reduce the levels of food insecurity,” says Pomfret.

Only if all these factors are addressed, he adds, will Somalia stand a chance of being able to feed itself.

mo farah fabian roncero

The Guardian — The Spaniard who lost his European half-marathon record to Mo Farah on Sunday has said that what Farah had broken “is the record for Somalia”.

Fabian Roncero, who held the European record for 13.1 miles before Farah broke it by 20 seconds in winning the Lisbon half-marathon in 59min 32sec, also claimed none of Farah’s European records from the 1500m to the half-marathon should be considered valid.

“Although the official lists say that Mo Farah now holds the half-marathon record, for me the 800m European record holder remains Sebastian Coe, the 1500m Fermín Cacho, the 5,000m Dieter Baumann and 10,000m António Pinto,” Roncero said.

“For me, an athlete who was born in Kenya is Kenyan and one born in Somalia is Somali forever, and that is the opinion of the people with whom I speak,” he said. “Besides, I am convinced that 95% of athletes still feel nationalised by their country of origin.”

Farah, the double Olympic and world 5,000m and 10,000m champion, was born in Somalia but moved to Britain aged eight to join his father, who was born in Britain. Only last month he admitted his anger at remarks allegedly made by his team-mate Andy Vernon at the European Championships in Zurich doubting his nationality and said “I love competing for my country”.

The 44-year-old Roncero, who trains young athletes in Cantabria in Spain, stressed he thought Farah was a great athlete and African runners were superior to European distance runners. However he maintains his European record should stand.

“I have nothing against Africans,” he told the Spanish newspaper Marca. “On the contrary, I consider them superior to European runners but with respect to the records, I say what I feel and I will never lie. Farah is a great athlete but for me the records in Europe are what make European athletes.”

somali ISIS

New York Times — MINNEAPOLIS — Reading back over Abdi Nur’s Twitter feed, his chilling progression from the basketball courts of South Minneapolis to the battlefields of Syria is clear.

Early last year, he began posting stern religious pronouncements and snippets of scripture. By April 2, a day after turning 20, he hailed Islamic fighters: “If the sky would be proud of the existence of the stars, the land should be proud of the existence of the Mujahideen.”

On May 29, the day he disappeared, he posted, “I Thank Allah For Everything No Matter What!” Soon he was in Turkey, rebuffing his mother’s and sister’s anguished pleas to come home. In late July, he declared, “What A Beautiful Day in Raqqa,” the de facto capital of the Islamic State in Syria. Last Aug. 7, he posted a picture of himself online with his finger on the trigger of a Kalashnikov.

Mr. Nur had become one of a small number of Americans enticed by the apocalyptic religious promise of the self-described Islamic State, which has seized large sections of Syria and Iraq and claims to be building a caliphate.

A slightly built man with an easy smile, he is a rare example of an American fighting for the terror group whose story can be pieced together from online postings, interviews and public records. His case suggests that the Islamic State may rely on recruiters inside the United States and shows how hard it is to predict who will be swept away by ideological fervor.

Mr. Nur was enrolled in community college outside Minneapolis and spoke of becoming a lawyer. Then he started visiting a new mosque and dressing in more traditional garb. He plotted his getaway with a friend, Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, but their fates starkly diverged. Mr. Yusuf was stopped as he tried to leave the country and is now in a Minneapolis halfway house, part of a closely watched experiment to spare him a long prison term and give him a role dissuading others attracted to terrorism.

The number of Americans drawn to the Islamic State remains modest, especially by comparison with the 3,000 or so who have joined the group from Europe. More than two dozen men and women have been stopped by the F.B.I. and charged before they could fly away. Social media posts and court records suggest that perhaps another two dozen have made it to the group in Syria, though even intelligence agencies do not have an exact count. At least four Americans have died fighting for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

With no clear pattern among recruits, law enforcement officials have scrambled to identify people attracted to the terror group in time to intervene — blocking their travel or potentially stopping a plot at home.

Most of the American ISIS volunteers display an earnest religious zeal, usually newfound. In an incongruous touch, several have visited malls to buy athletic gear before leaving for jihad — Mr. Nur, for instance, went to Macy’s for Nike apparel, the F.B.I. discovered.

The majority of the Islamic State recruits are men, but there are quite a few women. The volunteers include teenagers too young to drive and middle-aged adults with families and careers; petty criminals and diligent students. A substantial minority are converts to Islam, while others are the children of immigrants with roots in 10 Muslim countries.

The only cluster in the country is in Minneapolis, where two dozen young men with Somali roots departed in recent years to fight with the Shabab, the affiliate of Al Qaeda in Somalia. Now, to the distress of Somali elders, more than a dozen others have left or have tried to leave to join ISIS.

But the trickle of volunteers has come from across the country. On Tuesday, a 47-year-old Air Force veteran with a checkered work history was charged in Brooklyn with trying to join the Islamic State. Two weeks earlier, a computer-savvy 17-year-old boy in Virginia was charged with helping a man a few years older make contact with the terrorist group and get to Syria.

The cases raise a pressing question: Is the slick online propaganda that ISIS has mastered enough to lure recruits, or is face-to-face persuasion needed? A federal grand jury in Minneapolis is investigating whether an Islamic State recruiter gave Mr. Nur and Mr. Yusuf cash to buy plane tickets.

“No young person gets up one day and says, ‘I’m going to join ISIS,’ ” said Abdirizak Bihi, 50, a Somali activist who has worked against radicalization since his nephew left Minnesota in 2008 and was killed fighting for the Shabab.

“There has to be someone on the ground to listen to your problems and channel your anger,” Mr. Bihi said. “Online is like graduate studies.”

Travel Guide for Jihadists

Biographies are most complete on those caught at airports trying to leave the United States. Michael Todd Wolfe, 23, a convert to Islam from Texas with a record of assault and theft charges, for example, was stopped at the Houston airport. He had agonized over whether he would fit better with the Islamic State or the Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda affiliate.

F.B.I. agents were waiting at the Denver airport for Shannon Conley, a 19-year-old who thought she could use her skills as a nurse’s aide to help ISIS fighters. She hoped to marry a Tunisian recruiter for the Islamic State whom she had met online.

Mohammed Hamzah Khan, 19, took his younger brother and sister with him to O’Hare airport in Chicago, where agents intercepted them. He left his parents a long letter saying he could not stay in the United States because his taxes might be used to kill Muslims overseas.

Recruits have a remarkable ISIS travel guide to draw on, called “Hijrah to the Islamic State” — hijrah meaning “emigration” or “journey.” Distributed on the web since February, the 50-page book mixes Fodor’s-style advice on electrical plugs and packing — “I also advise a backpack with many small pockets” — with more tailored counsel, including the Twitter accounts of 15 men and three women with ISIS in Syria who offer guidance.

Photo

“Use a software to ‘hide’ all jihadi material you might be bringing,” the book warns, in flawed English. It advises travelers on what to tell suspicious officials in Turkey, the usual transit country. It comically alters a Turkish visa form to add a new checkbox for “purpose of trip”: “Commit jihad in Syria.” It advises travelers to check “tourism” instead.

For the most part, the Americans who have reached ISIS can be glimpsed only through their occasional online appearances, hidden behind screen names. Anat Agron, who studies the online trails of English-speaking foreign fighters in Syria for the Middle East Media Research Institute, said she had tracked six men and three women who credibly claimed to be Americans now with ISIS.

Ms. Agron also found a young woman who calls herself Chloe, a Muslim convert from San Francisco who appears to have married a Welsh fighter who joined the Nusra Front. Both posted pictures of their cat on Twitter, along with expressions of marital devotion. Chloe’s posts are mostly religious exclamations or lighthearted remarks about her life in Syria, including the niqab, or face veil.

“At the market being hugged by every little kid with a niqabi mother lol#niqabproblems #notyomama,” she tweeted on March 8. Another woman calling herself “Umm Jihad” posted a picture of an American passport, along with the passports of three other Western women. “Bonfire soon,” she wrote on Twitter, “no need for these anymore.”

A man posting online as Bandar al-Californi documented his preparations for hijrah in a long-running Twitter series. “I have much to do yet. Learn Arabic, save money, plan my course,” he wrote last November, adding that he was giving himself six months to leave.

“What an honor,” he tweeted to a self-described Islamic State fighter. “I hope to be in Sham soon,” he added, using a name for greater Syria. His Twitter account was suspended late last year, making it hard to say if he had succeeded.

Then there are those who encountered the violence of the Islamic State and the brutal war it is fighting. One American from Pennsylvania and three from Minnesota have died in combat with the group. Last month, when masked militants beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians on a Libyan beach, their leader spoke to the video camera in American-accented English, leading to speculation that he might have lived in the United States.

On March 2, ISIS-linked Twitter accounts claimed that a suicide truck bombing outside the Iraqi city of Samarra was carried out by “Abu Dawoud al-Amriki,” a nom de guerre that indicated he was an American. Officials say they have not been able to determine the bomber’s identity.

‘Who Brain Washed You?’

Because Mr. Nur, the Minneapolis man, is active on social media and has been charged in absentia with supporting ISIS, his story is easier to follow than most. His family declined to be interviewed. “They are devastated,” said Omar Jamal, a Somali-American activist in Minneapolis who spoke to family members. “They are afraid.” They are worried that anything they say might somehow endanger their son in Syria or relatives in Somalia, he said, in addition to attracting a hostile reaction from neighbors and co-workers.

Mr. Nur’s immigrant parents most likely did not see that by late March of last year, he was posting a quote from Anwar al-Awlaki, the late American recruiter for Al Qaeda: “We are fighting for truth and justice and you (americans/westerners) are fighting for oppression and worldly gain.”

Somehow “you” had become his fellow Americans. “We” were the jihadists. It was a few weeks after Mr. Nur and Mr. Yusuf had begun visiting a new mosque in Bloomington, outside Minneapolis. It was there that they became interested in ISIS, which was not yet associated with the videotaped beheadings of Westerners that would come later.

A passport specialist, suspicious when Mr. Yusuf applied for an expedited passport and seemed vague about its purpose, alerted the F.B.I. On May 28, agents intercepted Mr. Yusuf at the Minneapolis airport and kept him from boarding. They found that the blue Volkswagen Jetta that had dropped him off belonged to the boyfriend of Mr. Nur’s sister. But when they searched for Mr. Nur late on May 29, they learned he had left the country hours earlier.

Word that he was missing was a blow for the city’s large Somali community. “It went out like wildfire that he had left and nobody knew where he had gone,” said Abdirizak Warsame, a friend and, like Mr. Nur, a 2013 high school graduate. They had played basketball together just a few days earlier. “I had no clue,” he said.

The next day, May 30, Mr. Nur’s older sister, Ifrah, walked to the police station near the family’s apartment to report his disappearance. Over the next day or so, she managed to reach him in Turkey via messages on Facebook and an app called Kik. Their exchanges are recorded in court papers.

She challenged him, saying that their father “went into shock” and telling him that “going to kill poor people is not the answer.” She made an emotional appeal: “respond to me I love u and can’t live knowing this.” He gently put her off, saying that “if I didn’t care I wouldn’t have left but I want jannah” — paradise — “for all of us.”

ISIS Recruits in the United States

Since 2013, 29 people in the United States have been charged or detained as juveniles on allegations of supporting the Islamic State, usually after trying to travel to Syria to fight for the terrorist group. Two dozen other Americans are believed to either be with the Islamic State or to have been killed in the fighting.

 

During his early months in Syria, Mr. Nur was upbeat and posted frequently online. He was teaching English (“Got a Full Class”), trading tips on handguns and pistols, expressing excitement about fighting Kurdish forces (“Never Felt So Hyped”) and praising the “amazing brothers” with him. On Aug. 7, he answered questions on the website Ask.fm, including some from angry friends in Minneapolis.

“Who brain washed you?” one asked.

Mr. Nur was unfazed. “The Words of Allah, The Quran, that’s what brain washed me,” he wrote.

But there were hints of homesickness — multiple messages about the mothers of jihadists — and his posts fell off. “Oh Mother Be Patient,” he wrote, suggesting that they would be reunited in the afterlife.

Experiment in Rehabilitation

Since then, two related dramas have unfolded in Minneapolis. The federal grand jury investigating recruitment has called many young Somalis as witnesses. According to people who have talked to him, Mr. Yusuf said he received $1,500 for his plane ticket to Turkey from a young acquaintance who claimed he got it from a local man.

Meanwhile, leaders of the Bloomington mosque, Al Farooq Youth and Family Center, have publicly accused Amir Meshal, a 31-year-old mosque volunteer, of encouraging militancy among the teens there.

“When they learned in June that this particular individual was spreading radical views, they had him banned from the premises,” said Jordan Kushner, a lawyer for the mosque. A complaint filed with the police speaks of “concerns about Meshal interacting with our youth.” Officials at a second local mosque made a similar complaint about Mr. Meshal in local media.

Mr. Meshal, an American citizen originally from New Jersey who has been involved in a long-running lawsuit against the federal government, said in a statement, “I would never suggest that anyone join ISIS or any other group that kills innocent people, nor would I provide money to do so.”

In his 2009 civil rights lawsuit, Mr. Meshal accused F.B.I. agents and other American officials of threatening him while he was imprisoned secretly for four months in 2007 in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. By his account, he was studying Islam in Somalia when fighting broke out; the government claims he got weapons training and helped translate for leaders of the Shabab.

His lawsuit was dismissed last year, though the judge called his treatment “appalling.” The case is now on appeal.

Mr. Yusuf, Mr. Nur’s co-defendant, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support for terrorism and faces a maximum sentence of 15 years. But in an experiment being watched nationally, Judge Michael J. Davis of Federal District Court agreed to a presentence plan to divert Mr. Yusuf to a halfway house with the support of Heartland Democracy, an education nonprofit in Minneapolis. He worked at Best Buy and attended community college until late November, when he was jailed for a time in connection with his attempt to travel to Syria. His supporters are now working with the court to get him back in classes and eventually back in a job.

The idea, said Mary McKinley, executive director of Heartland Democracy, is to gradually reintegrate Mr. Yusuf into the community, and possibly give him a role in countering the radicalization of young people.

“Ideally, Abdullahi will be able to tell his story in a way that is useful to young people who are frustrated and disengaged,” Ms. McKinley said. His lawyer, Jean M. Brandl, said her client was not prepared to speak publicly.

Federal prosecutors opposed giving Mr. Yusuf a break, noting that he had lied to F.B.I. agents at the airport. But Judge Davis, who knows the Somali community well enough to ask about clans and sub-clans, went along with the plan, intended to reduce the chasm between Somalis and law enforcement officials. Parents and friends concerned about a young person drawn to the Islamic State are more likely to call the police, advocates say, if they believe there is an alternative to a long prison sentence.

Meanwhile, in Syria, Mr. Nur, or someone using his account, still occasionally posts on Twitter. If he has regrets, he does not acknowledge them. In January, he praised the two gunmen who attacked a satirical newspaper in Paris: “Well well well done Iqwah,” or brothers, he wrote. On March 2, he posted a photograph of Beretta handguns, adding: “How Sweet Does That Look.”

His most recent post came on March 8. “All Warfare,” he wrote, “Is Based on Deception.”

A group of students walked out of classes Wednesday afternoon at Technical High School in protest.
(Photo: Jason Wachter, jwachter@stcloudt)

ST Cloud Times — Members of the St. Cloud Somali community have assembled a task force of around 15 people to meet with St. Cloud school district officials and seek a “peaceful resolution” after ethnic tensions flared at Technical High School last week. Members of the task force could meet with Superintendent Willie Jett as early as Wednesday.

Abdul Kulane, a Somali community leader and former City Council candidate, said at least 200 community members gathered Saturday at St. Cloud Public Library on and chose people from different segments of the Somali population who intend to talk about what they see as a pattern of bullying and discrimination at the school. The task force includes parents of Tech students, community elders and other leaders, and two Tech students.

“We wanted the full community to be represented,” Kulane said. “We want people to put their heads together and have a meaningful dialogue. It’s not going to work if it’s just the students, or just the parents.”

Members of the task force met on Monday to solidify an agenda before meeting with officials.

District spokeswoman Tami DeLand said Jett is planning to meet with members of the task force this week. DeLand said Jett met with Somali community elders on Saturday.

“All of these meetings are intended to be problem-solving,” DeLand said. “The superintendent’s agenda is to make sure that our mission is carried out at Tech High School and all our schools, and that all students feel welcome.”

Separately, representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations were scheduled to meet Monday evening with Tech students after being contacted by them last week.

Meanwhile, normalcy returned to Tech during a successful school day, DeLand said. In a voice message sent to parents Monday afternoon, principal Adam Holm said he was “very proud of all the students and staff for working together toward a safe and caring environment.”

Nearly 100 Somali students protested on the school’s front lawn Wednesday after protesters said an offensive Snapchat post circulated. On Friday, another disturbance placed the school under lockdown, and upset students walked out of a meeting with administration meant to address their concerns. DeLand confirmed that some students left the meeting, though she did not know how many or what prompted them to walk out.

“If you’re going to have deep and meaningful conversation, it doesn’t end after one meeting,” DeLand said.

School districts track at-home languages but not students’ nationalities. Of the 1,426 students at Tech, 277 — or just more than 19 percent — speak the Somali language in the home, DeLand said. At Apollo, that number is 292 of 1,342 students, or nearly 22 percent.

Other events

The local chapter of GRIP/ISAIAH will have a town hall meeting Tuesday to discuss the situation at Technical High School, among other topics, said community organizer Anne Buckvold.

The organization is a multi-faith group that works to improve social issues across the state.

The meeting will focus on the growing need for public transportation, driver’s licenses for immigrants and increasing the number of counselors in schools.

Organizers will also discuss the possibility of extending Northstar Commuter Rail to the St. Cloud area.

ISAIAH might organize future meetings to look further into the issues at Technical High School.

Times staff writer Stephanie Dickrell contributed to this report.

graffitiGrandForks

Inforum – GRAND FORKS – Hate speech directed toward Somalis was found spraypainted Monday morning on a strip mall on South Washington in Grand Forks.

The words Somalia and a racist slur were spraypainted in large letters on the north side of the building located at 1020 S. Washington St.

A Facebook group North Dakotans Against Brutality, which has a closed account, posted the image on its page, where some commenters linked the graffiti with a protest last week over a public event many called anti-Muslim. Another commenter said that the city of Grand Forks had been notified about cleaning the building.

Al Jazeera speaks to Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke about security, investment and changing perceptions about the nation.

Al Jazeera – Doha, Qatar - Most would agree that being the prime minister of Somalia is a tough job. Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke has taken it on twice, first in 2009/2010 and then again from December last year.

Three months into the role, his biggest tasks are battling the dogged al-Shabab armed group and preparing the complex country for a transition to a new type of administration in 2016.

Somalia has recently made significant gains against the rebels, but they still pose a potent threat, both to the Somali state and to bordering, and watchful, neighbours such as Kenya and Ethiopia.

A sizeable African Union force and the Somali army have managed to push al-Shabab out of major cities, but the fighters still control large swathes of the countryside in the nation’s south.

The group is also capable of launching periodic attacks in the capital Mogadishu, including against the state buildings where Sharmarke conducts his business, and hotels frequented by top officials.

Al Jazeera’s Barry Malone spoke to the prime minister about the hunt for foreign investment, the desire to change Somalia’s image abroad and the possibility of ever sitting at a table with al-Shabab.

Al Jazeera: What are you doing in Qatar?

Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke: Somalia is no longer equated with the negative aspects: piracy, terrorism. Now the country is ready for business. And we want to solicit with whomever wants to invest. In the end, it’s economic growth and poverty reduction that really can get so many youth in our country out of disparity. So we are pushing to move onto the investment. So we discussed ways in which Qatar could invest in the country.

AJ: You said Somali had a negative reputation around security: piracy, al-Shabab etc. Do you think that hinders investment? How can investors trust their investments will be secure in Somalia?

Sharmarke: I think Somalia is the number one country that has seen a steady decline in terrorism activities in the last few years when you compare it to other hot spots in the world. So I think Somalia is less vulnerable and the country is really moving out of this, gradually but surely.

AJ: Last night the Pentagon put out a statement saying that a US drone had killed a senior al-Shabab leader, Adan Garar. They say this man was one of the masterminds of the Westgate attack in Kenya. What do you think the impact of that strike will be?

Sharmarke: There’s no safe haven for terrorists in Somalia. Whoever commits crimes wants to be punished. The United States cooperates with us on containing and destroying terrorist activities in Somalia. I think in the last couple of years most of the key leaders of al-Shabab were taken out. In that sense, the al-Shabab organisation is really weakened and even some are defecting to the government side. We’ve had the defection of high-profile individuals.

And there is also an amnesty in place. Whomever denounces violence, we’re ready to deal with and accommodate.

AJ: What about drones? US drone strikes get a negative press and many populations have turned against them because they say there’s a high civilian death toll. Is that a problem in Somalia?

Sharmarke: Drones have taken out key leaders of al-Shabab. The US and Somalia cooperates on that.

AJ: Is the amnesty to al-Shabab members working? How many have taken up the offer?

Sharmarke: A lot have taken up the offer. We’ve really had some high-profile people defecting. They are in the government’s hands. And we are ready to continue with this so that our young kids are not lured into these kinds of activities for nothing.

AJ: What would you say to people who say these men should be tried in court?

Sharmarke: I think whoever denounces violence and is ready to become part of society again should be given a chance.

AJ: Do you ever see a day in which you will sit down at a table with al-Shabab and speak to them?

Sharmarke: I think al-Shabab would have to denounce all violence and must denounce all the terrorist activities that they have conducted. They must really not only denounce but show that these were appalling acts that they committed.

AJ: 

Sharmarke: I think there will always be a small number who will never denounce violence and the only way is going to be to contain them and destroy them. But I think, anyone who denounces violence, we are ready to accommodate.

AJ: So those people could enter politics?

Sharmarke: It is a process, for them to get into politics. They’d have to transform in a very drastic way.

AJ: One man, one vote for the 2016 elections was what your government promised when it came to power. But you’re not in control of the entire country. So how can everyone get a vote?

Sharmarke: Districts controlled by al-Shabab are very few now. Most of the country is in the hands of the government. I think, for 2016, we are expecting that all those districts will be in the hands of the government.

AJ: A lot of your success at pushing al-Shabab back is thanks to an African Union force (AMISOM), which is made up of about 20,000 troops. When do you hope that these foreign troops can go home?

Sharmarke: Actually it wasn’t AMISOM who only did this. It was also our forces. We are grateful for AMISOM’s contribution. I think our brothers have done a tremendous job. Also our forces are doing great work to liberate all those districts. I think we are into two phases: one is to contain and destroy al-Shabab. The other is to build a national army with a national character.

Once we succeed in that, there will be a downgrading of AMISOM forces.

AJ: So when do you see that happening?

Sharmarke: I think the process might start 2016/2017.

AJ: 

Sharmarke: I think it’s not only Somalia that’s going through such problems. And I’m glad to say that Somalia is making progress on all of those. Piracy is down almost 90 percent. There haven’t been any incidents in the last year or so. Terrorism is going down. And a large part of the country is in the hands of the government.

I think compared to other parts of the world, with what’s going on in Syria, Libya and Afghanistan, Somalia is the only country that really shows some success in really dealing with terrorism.

AJ: You lived in the United States for many years. What do you think of the portrayal of Somalia in popular culture in the West, in Hollywood movies? Black Hawk Down, Captain Phillips etc. 

Sharmarke: That is why I came here to change the narrative and get away from that. Somalia is ready for business. It is no longer the country in which piracy and terrorism dominate the news. There are millions of Somalis that are moving on with their own lives. I think the country is rebuilding. I think most Somalis now have decided to pick up their own pieces and do whatever they can to better their lives.

I think that should also be part of the news. That negativity no longer fits the country. The world should now look at Somalia with different eyes.

Barry Malone is an online editor at Al Jazeera. Twitter@malonebarry

Additional reporting by Al Jazeera’s Hamza Mohamed.

bnbx

Introduction
The coastline of Somalia is 3,241 Km l¬ong, the longest on the African continent. The waters off Somalia’s coast are rich with significant fish stocks, they are, in fact, considered to be some of the richest fishing grounds in the region. There is also an abundance of other natural resources such as gas, petroleum, and various other minerals. Furthermore, a substantial number of vessels transporting oil from Arabian Gulf countries pass through these same waters. Its seas are, there¬fore, of strategic importance to the security, the economic wellbeing, and the political stability of Somalia.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – established in 1982 – is the international treaty governing the seas. Somalia ratified UNCLOS in 1989 and complies with its regulations.

Reasons behind the looting of the Somali Seas

1. The Somali maritime space suffered from the lack of a functional government and necessary resources to effectively manage the maritime resources
2. Illegal encroachment by neighboring countries on the maritime zones of Somalia
3. Illegal exploitation of the natural resources of the Somali seas by foreign vessels

On 28 August 2014, the Federal Government of Somalia initiated legal proceedings against the Republic of Kenya at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague with regards to the illegal encroachment by Kenya on the Somali seas on its southern border.

In light of the above and in response to the popular outrage of the Somali people, SOSCENSA platform members such as the United Somali Trade Union and educational umbrellas, the Banedir Transport Cooperatives and the University Students Union, jointly organized peaceful demonstrations in protest against the looting of Somalia’s marine resources. Therefore, we are calling on the Somali people, wherever they may be, to unite and to defend their land and its untapped natural resources and we appeal to them to take the necessary actions to fend off the continuous looting of Somalia.

We also demand and/or note the following:

1. That ENI, a company whose majority shareholder is the Italian Government (the former colonizer of Somalia), to immediately cease its illegal operations in the Somali seas.
2. That all foreign fishing companies (including Kenyan fishing vessels) immediately cease their illegal fishing and dumping of toxic waste in our seas. We demand that these actors be held accountable for their illegal action by the international community and that they compensate Somalia for the damages that they have caused and face legal consequences for their reprehensible actions.
3. While we are thankful to the United Nations Security Council for respecting the sovereignty of Somalia, we appeal to the Council to take necessary actions against any country that is looting and devastating the Somali seas.
4. We appeal to Kenyans in general, and especially to the civil society of Kenya, to urge their government to stop meddling in the Somali seas as this could eventually jeopardize relations between our two nations and threaten our peaceful co-existence.
5. As participants of this peaceful demonstration, we fully support the fine imposed by Attorney General on foreign companies violating the Somali seas.
6. We appeal to the Somali people, wherever they are, to react against the looting and illegal exploitation of their natural resources by foreign countries and companies.
7. Finally, we demand that the Italian government to either stand with the Somali people and its government or expect to have its ties with Somalia severed.

Translated from Somali language

Thank you

BBC

Double Olympic champion Mo Farah has won the Lisbon half marathon in a new European record time, becoming the first Briton to break 60 minutes.

The 31-year-old won the 13.1-mile race in 59 minutes, 32 seconds, to knock 20 seconds off the record set 14 years ago by Spain’s Fabian Roncero.

Farah, also world champion at 5,000m and 10,000m, beat Kenya’s Micah Kogo.

The world record of 58:23 was set by Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese in the 2010 edition of the Lisbon race.

Farah’s only world record is the two-mile indoor mark he set at the Birmingham Grand Prix last month.

He clocked a time of one hour exactly in winning 2014′s Great North Run, becoming the first British man to win the North East’s famous half marathon for 29 years.

Kenya’s Kogo, the 10,000m bronze medallist from the Beijing Olympics in 2008, was one of six men lining up against Farah to have already run under 60 minutes for the distance.

There was also British success in the wheelchair races for David Weir and Shelly Woods who continued their preparations for next month’s London Marathon, which also doubles as the IPC World Championships.

kenya corruption

by Benson Riungu | The Standard
Sunday, March 22, 2015

Reports of corruption in the public and private sectors have been pervasive in recent months that deep down, many Kenyans are beginning to entertain the suspicion that the vice is in the national DNA.

Perhaps the only source of comfort for them is that in a couple of cases, foreign companies and nationals have been implicated alongside Kenyans and punished for their crimes in their home countries, suggesting that the contagion is not uniquely Kenyan. Over the years, since mega- corruption reared its head in the country in the mid-1980s, some of us have done their patriotic duty by arguing against suggestions that Kenyans are naturally corrupt.

When we started hearing these snide remarks, we pointed out that official graft was a relatively new development — that while in the 1970s cases of magendo involving illicit trade in coffee by well-connected people and there were reports of petty corruption in government offices, these were largely dealt with swiftly and the guilty punished. Impunity was rare except in cases of the prominent people. I enjoyed a ringside seat when rumours started circulating about the first known mega- corruption scandal in Kenya, involving Turkwel Dam, in 1987.

In those days, the emerging cases of corruption never appeared in the mainstream media but were discussed in hushed voices in private. It so happened that in that year, I was invited by the British High Commission to tour projects funded by the British government in upper Eastern Province. I was in the company of two young officials from the Information Office who looked virtually identical and spoke in what I regarded as a snotty upper class accent.

Somewhere in Meru, the question of official corruption in Kenya popped up and I found myself defending my kith and kin. At this point, one of my British friends asked why I did not use my position as a reporter to expose a mega-scam whereby a top Kenyan Cabinet minister had been given bribes in a hotel in Paris to award a French company the contract to built Turkwel Dam. The opportunity to use this information presented itself not long after that when I attended a press conference called by the French ambassador at a Nairobi hotel. Fellow journalists at the conference looked at me in shock when I raised the matter of the dam and the purported bribe. Many had come to grief for much less.

I, however, received support from Njehu Gatabaki, who at the time was publishing a rabidly anti-government magazine and weighed in with more pointed questions about the French hand in the emerging graft cases. So angry was the ambassador with these pesky questions that he ended the conference in a huff. There is something about the ending of that trip with the snotty young British officials that might bear recalling. The arrangement was that they would drop me off in Embu town where I would spend the night and be picked up by a different official for the second leg of the trip. In the outskirts of Embu, one of the officials told me with a wink that one thing he liked about going on safari with Kenyan journalists was that they were not finicky.

They were not too choosy about where they spent the night as long as they had enough beer. Stopping at the gate of Izaak Walton Inn, he informed me with another knowing wink that he had made a booking for me at the fairly expensive hotel but would give me the money and it was up to me whether I chose to spend the night there or at a cheaper place. He would look the other way should I choose the latter, in fact, he would even drop me there.

I winked back and told him to hand over the money. It was not my place to raise the disturbing questions about where corruption begins and ends.

Al Jazeera

A massive security wall divides the city of Mogadishu, Somalia, in two. On one side, millions of Somalis live with the daily threat of violence. On the other side is a UN compound that houses international diplomats, aid workers and peacekeepers. Movement between these two worlds is severely restricted. What do people on each side imagine is beyond the wall?

Drone attack garaar

 

Drone attack garaar

NYTimes WASHINGTON — The Pentagon on Wednesday said that airstrikes last week against the Shabab extremist group were successful, and that Adan Garar, a senior member of the group, had been killed in a drone strike on his vehicle.

The strike, carried out last Thursday as Mr. Garar traveled near Diinsoor, Somalia, “dealt another significant blow” to the Shabab group and killed Mr. Garar, who is believed to have planned the 2013 attack on the Westgate mall in Kenya, the Defense Department said.

For nearly a decade the United States has been trying to fight the Shabab through economic sanctions, missile strikes and commando raids. Last year, the Obama administration stepped up its efforts, and in September an American drone strike killed the leader the group, Ahmed Abdi Godane, one of the most wanted men in Africa.

At the time President Obama drew a direct link between the killing of Mr. Godane, who turned an obscure local militant group into one of the most fearsome Qaeda franchises in the world, and American plans to go after the leaders of the Islamic State in Iraq. The Pentagon press secretary at the time, Rear Admiral John Kirby, called the death of Mr. Godane “a major symbolic and operational loss” to the Shabab.

Facebook-Messenger-Payments

Facebook-Messenger-Payments

Facebook’s long-awaited payments feature is finally here.

Mashable — On Tuesday, the social network announced a new feature for Messenger that lets users send and receive money to one another. The feature will roll out to Facebook users in the U.S. across desktop, Android and iOS over the next few months.

Users who add their debit card information in Messenger’s settings section can send payments by striking up a conversation with a friend, selecting the “$” icon that will appear in the row above the software keyboard, and tapping “Pay.” Users who receive money do so by opening up that friend’s message and accepting the payment when prompted. Like bank deposits, payment may take up to three business days to go through.

Facebook users can only add their debit card information for now, a decision the company said was made to minimize fraud and avoid fees. (Popular peer-to-peer payments app Venmo lets users add credit cards but charges a 3% fee on each transaction.)

People already pay each other for various things like paying the rent or splitting the dinner bill, “so why don’t we finish those conversations in the same place we started?” Steve Davis, Facebook’s payments program manager, told Mashable.

Users of Facebook's Messenger app will be able to link their debit cards to the service and use it to message money to each other.
Users of Facebook’s Messenger app will be able to link their debit cards to the service and use it to message money to each other.

With the new payments feature, Facebook is making a play to get users to stay on the social network for longer time periods, plain and simple. Digital marketing firm eMarketer estimated that adults in the U.S. averaged 21 minutes per day on Facebook in 2014 — the equivalent of 6% of their time spent online. Those are some solid stats, given Facebook remains the second-most trafficked site domestically and globally (behind Google), but like any Internet company, the longer people spend using their service, the better.

“It’s really about, ‘how do you keep Facebook sticky?’ How do you get users to play in a different way that’s beyond justcommunications?” explained Forrester Research Vice President Sucharita Mulpuru.

Higher engagement lowers the odds of Facebook users resorting to outside services that may be competition now or in the future. Persuading users to share their payment information with the social network also opens the doors for potential revenue-generating opportunities down the road.

“If Facebook gets a ton of credit card and payment details, and if consumers could complete transactions for physical goods on Facebook, and if Facebook actually chooses to do so in meaningful ways, they would be able to better target buyers, which could raise their advertising rates,” said Mulpuru, conceding those are a lot of ifs. It’s also unclear how much Facebook needs payment data to punch up its advertising, given ad revenues are already on a tear. (Its ads raked in $3.59 billion during the fourth quarter of 2014, up 53% year-over-year.)

The move makes more sense given mobile payments’ fast-growing popularity. Forrester Research estimates mobile payments will nearly triple in volume from $52 billion last year to $142 billion come 2019. Entering the space is a no-brainer for a player like Facebook, which sees 745 million of its users — roughly half its user base — sign on via phone or tablet.

It also could help improve Messenger’s image. The social network ruffled feathers last year when it split off Messenger into its own separate app. For Facebook users who wanted to continue messaging one another, it became a mandatory download. Baking payments into Messenger has the potential to boost the app’s utility for some.

With mobile payments in particular, Facebook is entering a crowded space. There’s Venmo, the PayPal-owned app that is particularly popular with teens and twenty-something adults, and Square Cash. Heck, even Snapchat wants in. The ephemeral photo-sharing service launched Snapcash in November, a partnership that lets Snapchat users pay each other inside the app. It’s unclear yet how Snapcash is doing, exactly, but it’s supposedly popular with a scantily-clad subset of folks who use it to charge for virtual lap dances.

Still, Gartner research director Brian Blau pointed out that none of those services have Facebook’s potential reach.

“Some app providers have offered person-to-person transfers for some time now, but not on the scale of say, Facebook,” said Blau.

Users may have concerns about sharing their banking information with the same network where people post animated GIFS and party pics, but Facebook says they shouldn’t worry. According to Davis, the software and equipment are PCI Compliant — the same security standard applied to credit card transactions — and stored in a secure environment separate from the rest of Facebook. An anti-fraud team will also track payments for potentially fraudulent transactions.

Whether enough Facebook users feel comfortable enough sending and receiving payments on the same platform they share updates with friends and family will be the big question in the months and years to come. But clearly it’s a question Facebook felt worth asking.

Ilyas Dawaleh was a businessman before be entered politics and rose to become a minister.
Ilyas Dawaleh was a businessman before be entered politics and rose to become a minister.
Ilyas Dawaleh was a businessman before be entered politics and rose to become a minister.

The National – Ilyas Dawaleh has an ambition: he wants to make his country the Dubai of Africa, and he is getting plenty of help from the UAE to help him achieve that.

Mr Dawaleh is the minister of economy and finance of Djibouti, the small but strategically situated country on the Horn of Africa. It commands the entrance to the Red Sea and acts as an entrepôt for the landlocked countries in East Africa such as Ethiopia and South Sudan.

Location is its blessing but also, Mr Dawaleh recognises, its challenge. In the midst of unstable neighbours such as Somalia and Sudan, with Yemen just 29 kilometres away across the Bab el Mandeb (Gate of Anguish) straits, Djibouti nonetheless would like to a be a safe commercial haven for East Africa, as Dubai is for the Arabian Gulf.

“The model of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid is the one I’d like to follow. Dubai, and the whole of the UAE, have a very special status in my country,” he says.

Which makes the current situation slightly bizarre. There has been big investment in Djibouti by several UAE groups. Nakheel, for instance, helped to build the US$400 million Palace Djibouti hotel and resort in the country.

But the biggest and most high-profile example of Djibouti-Dubai cooperation is currently “tarnished” (in the words of one of the project participants), and is the subject of legal arbitration in the London courts. Djibouti is claiming tens of millions of dollars from DP World, the Dubai-based ports company, on the grounds of alleged fraud conducted by a former official of Djibouti’s port and free zone authority, which DP World helped to build a decade ago.

Another big Dubai entity, Emirates National Oil Company, was also involved in the port’s construction.

Mr Dawaleh, a businessman before be entered politics, is not qualified to comment on the legal intricacies of the DP World case beyond saying: “The relationship is still cordial and DP World still runs the container terminal. One case must not affect our relationship with the UAE.”

In fact, it is believed the Djibouti and UAE governments are looking for “brotherly and friendly” ways to halt the London case, with Djibouti hoping to recover some of the funds it alleges were embezzled from it.

Such an outcome would be a boost for Djibouti and enhance its attractions as a destination for foreign investment. The country has one of the highest economic growth rates in Africa – about 7 per cent is forecast for this year – and has already drawn big investor interest.

“We see Djibouti as a logistics and commercial hub for the whole of East Africa. We already have the biggest port on the eastern coast, but the eastern side of the continent is underserved. There are more ports on the western side for a smaller population,” he explains.

The strategy is contained in the ambitious Djibouti 2035 plan, which is based in four pillars: good governance, private sector-led diversification, human development in terms of health and education, and leading regional economic integration.

Economic and political relations with Ethiopia, the big close neighbour with a population of 90 million but no seaport, are crucial. Djibouti already serves as the trans-shipment port for Ethiopia and recently concluded a $2bn power link that supplies about 70 per cent of Djibouti’s energy needs. A top-grade rail link is scheduled to open next year.

New projects under way or under consideration include new port facilities, airports and free zones. Again, the parallel with Dubai, with its focus on the “three Ts” of transport, trade and tourism, is striking.

Telecommunications is another priority, Mr Dawaleh points out. ”We already have the largest telecoms infrastructure in the east of Africa, similar in size to that of South Africa, but we want to be bigger,” he says.

Six new fibre-optic cables are planned to make the country a telecoms hub between the high- traffic zones of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and Europe, he says.

Other areas earmarked for expansion are tourism, both eco-tourism and luxury business, as well as fisheries, in which Djibouti has ambitions to be a seafood processing hub.

The country is investing heavily in geothermal energy plans, alongside funds from the World Bank, with the aim of making Djibouti the first green energy hub in the continent.

The minister realises that all these ambitious plans are of little value without security. He has just returned from a meeting in Washington with John Kerry, the US secretary of state, at which the Americans reiterated their support for and investment in the security of the country, where they have their only land base on the African continent, Camp Lemonnier.

“There is no such thing as zero risk anywhere in the world now, but we manage security successfully, with help from our allies. Djibouti people are moderate, tolerant,” Mr Dawaleh says.

The other perennial problem is corruption, which has deterred foreign investors in Africa for decades. But Mr Dawaleh says that the country is committed to high standards and has an anti-corruption commission operating under its president, Ismail Omar Guelleh. “You could say we’ve also taken the fight against corruption to London,” Mr Dawaleh says.

More than 100 students and a handful of adults protested outside Technical High School starting shortly before noon Wednesday. (Photo: St. Cloud Times)
More than 100 students and a handful of adults protested outside Technical High School starting shortly before noon Wednesday. (Photo: St. Cloud Times)
More than 100 students and a handful of adults protested outside Technical High School starting shortly before noon Wednesday. (Photo: St. Cloud Times)

St Cloud Times – ST. CLOUD, Minn. – More than 100 students and a handful of adults protested outside Technical High School starting shortly before noon Wednesday.

Junior Hassa Abdi said students gathered because they felt administrators had not addressed conflicts between Somali and non-Somali students in the school.

The latest in a string of incidents involved a recent social media post on Snapchat depicting a Somali Tech student and using a caption that implied she was involved in the ISIS terrorist organization, Abdi said.

The school is in containment, which limits students’ movements, according to district spokeswoman Tami DeLand.

The students organized the protest through social media, said Lul Hersi, who identified herself as a parent of a Tech student.

Students and parents feel they are being unfairly targeted for discipline by administration, she said.

She said there have been cases in which Somali students are victims of bullying by non-Somali students and retaliate. The Somali students are disciplined, but the aggressor in the bullying conduct isn’t punished, Hersi said.

“This is what we were trying to avoid,” Hersi said, as she pointed to the crowd of kids. “But when our kids are pushed and shoved, believe me they’ll retaliate.”

Sign In

Register

Reset Your Password

Email Newsletter

cccc