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Crisis Averted in Somalia’s Parliament, but Tensions Simmer

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NAIROBI, Kenya — A dispute between the speaker of the Somali Parliament and the country’s president briefly threatened on Wednesday to turn violent, the latest development in a complex controversy over the proposed leasing of a major port to a company controlled by the United Arab Emirates.

Conflict was avoided, partly because of the efforts of an African Union soldier, but the dispute also highlighted the fragility of the federal government under the leadership of its new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known by the nickname Farmajo, who was elected last year in a process marred by corruption.

Mr. Mohamed leads a weak federal government that is trying to wield power and influence over six states, while the Shabab, an offshoot of Al Qaeda, regularly challenges its rule with acts of terrorism.

Last year, Somaliland, a stable and semiautonomous region in the country’s north, signed a deal with DP World, a port management company based in the Emirates, to operate the port of Berbera.

Somaliland considers itself an independent country, and Somaliland officials negotiated the deal directly with DP World.

But lawmakers in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, objected, saying that bypassing federal officials violated the sovereignty of Somalia.

In March, Parliament voted unanimously to cancel the deal, in a motion that the speaker, Mohamed Osman Jawari, presided over.

The bill, which included language that forbids any foreign investment contracts without approval by the Parliament, was put forward without input from the president or prime minister. Observers said the vote was a sign of the growing political strength of Mr. Jawari.

Allies of the president and the prime minister put forward a no-confidence motion against Mr. Jawari, which has twice been delayed for security reasons. On Wednesday, Mr. Jawari’s backers accused opponents of having accepted money to vote against the speaker. “Down with bribetakers!” they chanted.

Parliamentary police officers loyal to Mr. Jawari lined up to protect the speaker’s podium.

In response, state security forces loyal to the president deployed outside Parliament, raising fear that tensions between the two men could lead to violence.

Soldiers from Danab, a Somali special forces contingent trained by the United States, were also deployed to secure the Parliament.

The standoff ended after Paul Lokech, who leads a Ugandan contingent of the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, brokered a deal between Mr. Jawari and Mr. Mohamed to talk through the dispute.

“They need to dialogue and get their problems sorted out,” Mr. Lokech said in a telephone interview. “That’s what we agreed upon.”

The port deal is one illustration of the growing disruption that an international dispute has created in domestic Somali politics.

That rift has pitted Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are major trading partners with Somalia, against Qatar, whose financial support was widely seen as a critical factor in Mr. Mohamed’s victory in last year’s presidential election.

The vote against the DP World deal further strained relations between Somalia and the Emirates, which wants to see Mr. Mohamed distance himself from his Qatari patrons and their allies.

“The Emiratis are waging a campaign against Farmajo,” said Joshua Meservey, a senior policy analyst on Africa and the Middle East at the Heritage Foundation. “Farmajo has refused to join an embargo against Qatar, and that has really angered the Saudis and the Emirates. They just don’t think Farmajo is playing ball as he should.”

Somali News

Kansas Trio Convicted in Plot to Bomb Somali Immigrants

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WICHITA, Kan. — A federal jury on Wednesday convicted three men of plotting to bomb an apartment complex where Somali immigrants lived and worshiped in Garden City, Kan., giving prosecutors a victory at a time when threats against religious and racial minorities are rising nationally.

“These defendants conspired to build a bomb, blow up a building and murder every single man, woman and child inside,” Tony Mattivi, a federal prosecutor, told jurors during closing statements.

The men, Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Stein, all of whom are white, appeared stoic as the verdicts were read. They face up to life in prison when they are sentenced in June.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated for about seven hours over two days.

Defense lawyers tried to convince jurors that their clients were manipulated by the F.B.I., and had been unfairly targeted for exercising their rights to own guns and speak freely.

“He was a member of a militia. He loved his guns. This was a lifestyle,” Melody Brannon, a lawyer for Mr. Allen, told the mostly white jury. “The government tried to criminalize that lifestyle.”

The trial, which played out over about a month in Wichita, focused on a period before the 2016 presidential election when a paid F.B.I. informant infiltrated a militia group that prosecutors said included the three men. Prosecutors, who built much of their case around secret recordings that the informant made of the men talking, said that they planned to carry out the bombing on Nov. 9 of that year, a day after voters selected a president.

“They wanted to send a message to the people living there that they’re not welcome in Garden City, they’re not welcome in southwest Kansas, they’re not welcome in the United States,” Mr. Mattivi said.

The men, who called themselves “the Crusaders,” were arrested about four weeks before Election Day and charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against rights, which the Justice Department considers a hate crime. Mr. Wright was also charged with lying to the F.B.I. The three men were found guilty on all counts against them.

The trial came amid a national escalation in threats against religious and racial minorities, especially Muslims, according to the F.B.I. and organizations that monitor hate crimes.

“It is now approaching the level of hate violence against the same communities that we saw in the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks,” said Suman Raghunathan, executive director of SAALT: South Asian Americans Leading Together, a national advocacy organization.

Prosecutors portrayed the Kansas defendants as aspiring domestic terrorists who joined a militia and decided to bomb the Somali apartments after considering other attacks — on elected officials, churches that helped refugees and landlords who rented to immigrants.

Defense lawyers, who criticized the F.B.I.’s investigation throughout the trial as government overreach, suggested that their clients had merely engaged in idle talk inspired partly by the 2016 election. Expletive-filled recordings of the men played before the jury contained repugnant, bigoted language, the defense lawyers said, but not evidence of a federal crime.

“It is not morally right to hold such hate, but it is not legally wrong,” said James Pratt, a lawyer for Mr. Stein, who acknowledged that his client referred to Muslims as “cockroaches.” Mr. Stein referred to himself, the recordings showed, as an “Orkin man,” referencing the pest extermination company.

“We all have the right to hate,” Mr. Pratt added.

A bombing never took place, and no one was physically injured in Garden City, a point defense lawyers emphasized to jurors. They said the men lacked the ability or commitment to carry out such an attack, and that the F.B.I.’s paid informant helped steer the plot and suggested targeting the apartments.

Garden City is a racially diverse place about 200 miles west of Wichita with around 27,000 residents. Many Somalis and other immigrants have moved to the area in recent years to work at a nearby meatpacking plant.

The apartment complex that prosecutors say was targeted is a center of Somali life in Garden City. Many refugee families live in units of the complex; others come to pray in a makeshift mosque inside one unit.

Moussa Elbayoumy, who chairs the board of the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the verdict affirmed his faith in the justice system.

Many Muslims he talked to in Garden City had not followed the trial closely, Mr. Elbayoumy said, but had hoped for convictions.

“The instance was troubling, was concerning. People were afraid,” Mr. Elbayoumy said in a phone interview. “But after that, they put this behind them and moved on with their lives.”

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Somali News

What’s triggering tension between Somalia and the UAE? | Inside Story

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Somalia has been in conflict for much of the past 25 years. But the horn of Africa nation has been showing signs of recovery.
And that’s provoked interest from many regional countries including the United Arab Emirates.

The Gulf nation has been conducting a military training programme and running a hospital in the capital Mogadishu.

But, the UAE’s government has now abruptly ended its involvement on both those fronts after a series of recent diplomatic disagreements.

So, why are the UAE and other regional countries interested in Somalia?

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Somali News

AMISOM asks for more police officers in Somalia

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DAILY MONITOR — KISMAYO- The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has asked partners states to contribute more police officers to expand its operations in the war-torn country.

The call was made on Tuesday by Ms Christine Alalo, the acting AMISOM police commissioner while receiving 145 police officers from Sierra Leone.

The deployment of the force from Sierra Leone brings to 160 the number of police officers from Sierra Leone.

“We expect other police contributing countries to do the same because we are expanding our operations. We are moving away from Mogadishu,” Ms Alalo said.

Apart from Sierra Leone, other police contributing countries in Somalia are; Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia and Ghana.

Early this month, over 500 Ugandan Police Officers sat for interviews that would see successful ones join police operations in Somalia.

Ms Alalo said since police operations will be extended to other federal states and districts, it is inevitable to increase the number of police units.

Between 2015 and 2016, AMISOM trained 600 Somali officers in Jubbaland, but Ms Alalo said that number has to be reinforced.

Meanwhile, the AMISOM Assistant Inspector General of Police, Mustafa Solomon Kambeh, said the police officers would be deployed in Jubbaland and Kismayo.

Mr Kambeh doubles as the Contingent Commander of the Sierra Leonean FPU in Mogadishu urged the forces to stick to the AMISOM mandate of pacifying Somalia and its regional states.

The Formed Police Unit is charged with public order management, protection of facilities and support to police operations that require a concerted response.

The United Nations Security Council Resolution adopted in 2017 approved an increase to a maximum of 1,040 police officers serving under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)

AMISOM is committed to redoubling its efforts to train and recruit more police officers during the transition period as it prepares to hand over security responsibilities to the Somali security forces as stipulated in the Security Council Resolution.

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