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Defeating Al-Shabaab first step for Somalia’s stability: AMISON chief



NAIROBI, March 11 (Xinhua) — The international community should rally behind efforts to revitalize the war against Al-Shabaab militants in order to hasten Somalia’s reconstruction, a senior AU official has said.

Francisco Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia, told Xinhua Friday that a mixture of diplomatic, military and economic tools is required to boost the war against terrorism in the Horn of African state.

“Liberating Somalia from the crippling influence of Al-Shabaab and violence is the first step to stabilize the country,” Madeira said during an interview in Nairobi.

The veteran Mozambican diplomat who is also the head of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) noted that military assault against Al-Shabaab fighters has paid dividends but warned the Al-Qaida-linked terror network remained a huge threat to peace and stability in the greater Horn of Africa region.

“It is the responsibility of Somalia government and armed forces, neighbors and other partners far afield to root out terrorism and insecurity,” said Madeira.

The AU envoy noted that targeted airstrikes and enhanced intelligence gathering has dealt a huge blow to Al-Shabaab as evidenced by deaths and defections of senior commanders.

At the same time, Madeira said enhanced collaboration between African Union troops and Somali armed forces has dislodged Al-Shabaab in key strongholds.

“Our anti-terrorism strategies are yielding results and there has been destabilization within Al-Shabaab. The day this armed group denounced violence, it will create a conducive environment to work for peace in Somalia,” Madeira told Xinhua.

He stressed that enhanced coordination coupled with empowering Somalia’s disciplined forces is key to salvaging the country from the grip of terror and civil strife ahead of exit of AU troops that is expected to end next year.

He said military interventions to root out terrorism in Somalia have ushered in some levels of stability in the country hence attracting foreign direct investments.

Madeira noted that the AU troops in collaboration with Somalia National Army have managed to bring stability in regions that were terrorism havens.

“We will continue to fight alongside Somalia troops to eradicate terrorism in the country,” said Madeira.

He added that the African Union is also keen on strengthening cooperation with China to help address Somalia’s endemic challenges like terrorism, civil strife and natural calamities.

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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