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AMISOM Warns of Increased Al-Shabab Ambushes



VOA — Al-Shabab attacks against African Union peacekeepers and Somali government forces could worsen as troops try to reopen Somalia’s main supply roads, currently cut off by the militants, a spokesman for the peacekeepers warns.

Lieutenant Colonel Wilson Rono said the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops and Somali National Army forces are trying to reopen the highway linking the capital, Mogadishu, to Baidoa, 240 kilometers (150 miles) to the west. It’s one of three main roads linking Mogadishu the south, southwest and central regions.

Rono spoke to VOA’s Somali service this week after al-Shabab militants ambushed an AMISOM supply convoy about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Mogadishu on Friday, killing at least 10 soldiers and destroying most of the 20 trucks. It was the latest of many deadly attacks the militant group has waged against the AU forces.

Al-Shabab was pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011 and in following years lost control of almost all the country’s major towns. It had to resort to “difficult” guerrilla tactics, Rono said.

Rono said AMISOM soldiers repulsed another al-Shabab ambush Friday near the town of Fafahdhun in Somalia’s Gedo region.

He said the soldiers killed 23 Al-Shabab fighters. Mohamed Hussein al-Qadi, the district’s deputy governor, put the Shabab death toll at five.

“We learn from each incident,” Rono said. “But the nature of the asymmetrical warfare and fighting of insurgency makes you certain that this kind of thing will happen” again.

Bal’ad ambush

The deadly attack Friday occurred near the town of Bal’ad. At least five armored AMISOM vehicles were escorting a convoy transporting supplies to Jowhar, the main headquarters of the Burundian peacekeepers operating in the Middle Shabelle region.

Rono said the militants were hiding in thick vegetation along the road when they detonated explosives then attacked the convoy with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire.

Just three weeks ago after an attack on a military checkpoint killed several Somali soldiers, AMISOM and Somali troops cleared vegetation along the road to improve visibility and remove possible militant hiding spots.

Al-Shabab claimed it killed 23 Burundian soldiers, a figure Rono disputes.

“We lost three of our troops and six of them are injured and are here in Mogadishu,” Rono said.

But other sources put the AU death toll higher. Burundi Vice President Gaston Sindimwo told VOA’s Central Africa Service that five of his country’s soldiers had died.

At least 10 AU peacekeepers were killed in the ambush on Friday, according to three separate Somali officials. If correct, that makes the ambush one of al-Shabab’s deadliest attacks on AMISOM since the AU mission arrived in Somalia 11 years ago.


AMISOM currently has over 20,000 peacekeepers in Somalia. Last year, the mission announced plans to gradually reduce its troop strength. The Mission says eventual withdrawal will be “conditions-based,” but has made it clear to Somali leaders it wants to see concrete progress in building a national force to take over security responsibilities.

Few soldiers have actually been withdrawn, on the grounds that Somalia’s army needs more time to strengthen and cohere in order to hold off al-Shabab.

Hussein Arab, former Somali defense minister and current head of the Parliamentary Defense Committee, welcomed the plan to rebuild Somali forces and improve their coordination with AMISOM.

“The important thing is that we focus on our forces that will be taking over the security,” he told VOA Somali.

Soon after his February 2017 election as Somalia’s president, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo vowed to build a capable Somali army within two years. Farmajo, a dual U.S.-Somali citizen, now has less than a year to meet that deadline.

Somali News

Africa is on the verge of forming the largest free trade area since the World Trade Organization



CNBC — According to the African Union, this would consolidate a market of 1.2 billion people, and a gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion.

But, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni have both snubbed the summit in Kigali, Rwanda.

African heads of state have gathered in Kigali, Rwanda, to sign a free trade agreement that would result in the largest free trade area in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization.

Leaders are poised to approve the African Continental Free Trade Area, a deal that will unite the 55 member countries of the African Union in tariff-free trade.

The agreement is touted by the African Union as encompassing a market of 1.2 billion people, and a gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion. It is hoped that it will encourage Africa’s trade to diversify away from its traditional commodity exports outside of the continent, the volatile prices of which have hurt the economies of many countries.

“Less than 20 percent of Africa’s trade is internal,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame, also currently chairperson of the African Union, said in a speech Tuesday. “Increasing intra-African trade, however, does not mean doing less business with the rest of the world.”

But, the deal has its critics. It was announced over the weekend that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari would not be attending the summit, despite his federal cabinet last week approving the deal. “This is to allow more time for input from Nigerian stakeholders,” said an official statement from the foreign ministry.

The agreement is opposed by the Nigeria Labour Congress, an umbrella organization for trade unions in the country.

“Given the size of its economy, population, and given its political clout, Nigeria’s stance towards the African Continental Free Trade Area is key,” Imad Mesdoua, senior consultant for Africa at Control Risks, a global risk consultancy with offices in Lagos, told CNBC via email. Nigeria is the continent’s most populous nation and considered by some metrics to be sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economy.

“There is a general sentiment among (labor unions and industry bodies) that Nigeria’s export capacity in non-oil sectors isn’t sufficiently robust yet to expose itself to external competition,” Mesdoua said.

The president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, also called off his visit at the last minute, although it remains unclear as to why.

Africa’s population is expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050, according to the African Union. By this time it will account for 26 percent of the world’s working age population. Talks for the African Continental Free Trade Area began in June 2015.
Should the agreement be signed, second phase talks are expected to begin later this year. These will focus on investment, competition and intellectual property rights.

According to a study published by the United Nations last month, the deal will lead to long-term welfare gains of approximately $16.1 billion, after a calculated $4.1 billion in tariff revenue losses. But, the report did warn that benefits and costs might not be distributed evenly across the African continent.

In principle, a free trade area across Africa “makes perfect economic sense,” Ben Payton, head of Africa at risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, told CNBC via email.

But, he added: “The biggest risk is that African countries would be unable to effectively enforce external customs controls. For example, this would mean cheap Chinese goods that are imported into Ghana could eventually cross various African borders without further controls and make it into Nigeria. This problem already exists, but a free trade area would potentially make it worse.”

The World Trade Organization was formed in 1995 and comprises of 164 members.

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Somali News

At least 14 dead, several hurt in car bomb in Somali capital



ABC — At least 14 people were killed and 10 others wounded in a car bomb blast near a hotel in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, Somali officials said Thursday.

Capt. Mohamed Hussein said the explosion occurred near the Weheliye hotel on the busy Makka Almukarramah road. The road has been a target of attacks in the past by the Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab, the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa.

Most of the casualties were passers-by and traders, Hussein told The Associated Press. The toll of dead and wounded was announced by security ministry spokesman Abdulaziz Hildhiban.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the blast. The group frequently attacks Mogadishu’s high-profile areas such as hotels and military checkpoints. A truck bombing in October killed 512 people in the country’s deadliest-ever attack. Only a few attacks since 9/11 have killed more people. Al-Shabab was blamed.

Thursday’s blast comes almost exactly a month after two car bomb explosions in Mogadishu shattered a months-long period of calm in the city, killing at least 21 people.

The Horn of Africa nation continues to struggle to counter the Islamic extremist group. Concerns have been high over plans to hand over the country’s security to Somalia’s own forces as a 21,000-strong African Union force begins a withdrawal that is expected to be complete in 2020.

The U.S. military, which has stepped up efforts against al-Shabab in the past year with dozens of drone strikes, has said Somali forces are not yet ready.

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Somali News

Somalia ranked sixth happiest African nation



CGTN — Despite decades of turmoil in Somalia – the citizens of the country remain happy as compared to other African countries. CGTN’s Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu on how this new found happiness can be used to develop Somalia.

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