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Djibouti is open to Turkey’s efforts to safeguard Red Sea, ambassador says



Djibouti is open to any kind of approach from Turkey such as building a military base to secure the Red Sea, Djiboutian ambassador to Ankara Aden H. Abdillahi has said, pointing to possible steps that could be taken to strengthen military ties between the two countries.

Citing the Red Sea as the second-busiest sea way in the world, Abdillahi said: “This international sea way must be secured and the international community needs to ensure that this area is safe from all kinds of threats.”

In line with efforts to enhance the security of the region, the ambassador said that “possible steps from Turkey to build a military base in the country would be welcomed.”

Djibouti has become home to key military bases due to its strategic location on the Horn of Africa. The small country on the Red Sea hosts the largest permanent U.S. military base in Africa as well as military bases of France and China and Japan’s only foreign base. The country lies on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which is one of the busiest shipping routes.
Commenting on the recent graduation of Somali troops from the Turkish military base, the ambassador said that as a neighbor of the country, “Djibouti feels gratitude for Turkey for providing help to the government of Somalia.” He added that Somalia should be supported in its fight against threats of terrorism that affect the daily lives of the people, pointing to the recent terrorist attack in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

He said the bilateral ties between the two countries have enhanced since the opening of a diplomatic mission in Djibouti in 2012, and that friendly relations between Turkey and Djibouti go back to the 16th century. Abdillahi also welcomed Turkey’s increased attention on Africa and its recent initiatives. “Turkey already started opening up to Africa in 2005, and in 2008, we had a Turkey-Africa summit. I think this new approach will boost ties further.”

Touching on the visit of Djiboutian President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh to Turkey, Abdillahi said: “Omer Guelleh’s visit to Turkey will completely change the relationship between the two countries.” He said that the visit will pave the way for further cooperation in various fields, including education, health and economy. The two countries signed many agreements while he was in Turkey.

In relation to the economic relations between the countries, the ambassador said that Turkey and Djibouti agreed on establishing a Turkish special economic zone that will enable Turkish business to establish industries.

“The business community can reach out to the region having a special economic zone with many facilities that will also allow Turkish business to target the whole region,” he said. He added that the port facilities in Djibouti rank among the best in Africa and that the economic zone provided to Turkey is close to the port.

Pointing out that Djibouti is the entry point of the region, he said many investments have been made in the port facilities, railways and highways to connect the whole region.

“In East Africa, the potential that we have is huge, and Turkey has great potential, as well. Building a strong partnership will benefit both sides. Today, this area is booming,” he said.

In relation to the U.S’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Abdillahi said: “We need to thank Turkey for its leadership for emphasizing that the decision cannot be accepted.”

Turkey condemned the decision from U.S. President Donald Trump, and Erdoğan urged world leaders to oppose the decision in an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Istanbul. The OIC announced that it recognizes east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

The U.S. decision was rejected in the United Nations General Assembly, which has isolated the country.

“We need to express our solidarity with the people of Palestine who have been suffering, and accept the two-state solution,” Abdillahi said. He added that the decision to reject the U.S.’s steps was a wakeup call and Turkey’s decision to open an embassy in east Jerusalem would be a game changer

Briefing Room

‘Sense of duty’ sees Somali refugees head home



Slapping a large piece of equipment wrapped in packing materials, Dr Mohamed Hussein Aden smiles: “The Swiss sent us this but unfortunately not with the instruction manual so we don’t know how to use it. It’s sat here for a good few years now. Shame really.” The ceiling of the theatre is sagging and the operating table stained and split. It’s a far cry from Harrow, north London, where Aden lived and worked before returning in 2012 to Somalia, from where he fled as a refugee in 1994.

Now he is the director of Galkayo hospital, the main facility for the inhabitants of Somalia’s third city and for those living for hundreds of miles around in the drought-hit countryside.

“I came back in 2012. We Somalians have always felt a duty, an obligation, to support those back home, and now we are coming back, bringing the skills back, engineering, building, medicine. So many of our politicians are from the diaspora,” said Aden, 62, who harbours political ambitions. Four of his six children have returned with him, he said, seeing Somalia’s fragile peace as an opportunity.

Somalia’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, has dual US and Somalian citizenship. In his cabinet and ministries British accents vie with those from US, Canada and other parts of Europe. The aid agencies and civil society are full of young people like Saredo Mohamed, 22, born in Canada to Somali parents, who is relearning her mother tongue and culture.

“You see a lot of people in my age group coming back, it is a wonderful opportunity to give back and also to learn about my culture,” she said. Mohamed is working at Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development, founded by her aunt Hawa Aden Mohamed, another returnee from Canada.

The sheer numbers of diaspora returnees is unique to a country that has seen decades of war and lawlessness. In 2015, two million Somalis living outside the country were sending home so much money to support the households who stayed behind that the remittances accounted for 23% of GDP.

There have been tensions. Local Somalis have sometimes demanded more rights than those who have spent decades or whole lives abroad while returnees have been accused of assuming superiority due to their education and experience. A symposium was held in the capital Mogadishu last June to attempt to bridge such gaps.

“Such efforts hope to see people who have stayed and foreign returnees rebuilding Somalia together,” said Aden. “The diaspora has a big role, many of the young people come back and have a real culture shock. My son, 25, was really shocked when he arrived from London, it took 35 days for him to assimilate, now he is drinking camel’s milk!

“Myself, I came back after 28 years because my sister was dying. I said I would stay three months. Here I am after five years.”

Aden shows the work being done on a new building in the hospital’s compound: “Eighty per cent of the funding comes directly from the diaspora, mainly Europe, the Scandinavians, Denmark. We are really changing the town.” The construction work is being done by a company owned by Ali Dhaaf Abdi, aged 42, fresh from Norway. His Norwegian-born wife is still adjusting to this dusty city where only a handful of buildings are over one storey, and only one more than two storeys. “We will soon change that,” said Abdi. “For $25,000 I can build you a house for a family of four … I am building houses here for people from Sweden, from Canada, from the UK.

“I came back because while it is easy to make a business in Europe, it is difficult to grow bigger. Here I can expand. And this is my country. Now I have 120 employees. They welcome me here for the jobs.

“I do miss the security, Galkayo is very fragile. I also miss supermarkets and the high quality of clothing, but the education is the same. We have good wi-fi, my children come and go between here and Oslo.”

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Briefing Room

A Child Dies, a Child Lives: Why Somalia Drought Is Not Another Famine



DOLLOW, Somalia (Reuters) – At the height of Somalia’s 2011 famine, Madow Mohamed had to leave her crippled five-year-old son Abdirahman by the side of the road to lead her eight other starving children toward help.
When she returned to search for him, she found only a grave. He was among the 260,000 Somalis who perished.

“You can never forget leaving your child to die,” she says, wiping away tears at the memory seven years later. “It is a hell that does not end.”

This time, the drought has been harsher. Three seasons of rains have failed, instead of two. But none of Mohamed’s other children have died – and the overall death toll, although unknown, is far lower. The United Nations has documented just over 1,000 deaths, mostly from drinking dirty water.


Earlier donor intervention, less interference by a weakened Islamist insurgency, a stronger Somali government and greater access for aid workers have been crucial.

Another reason is that aid agencies are shifting from giving out food to cash – a less wasteful form of aid that donors such as Canada, Europe and Australia have embraced, although the United States still has restrictions on food aid.

The U.S. Congress will debate a move toward cash-based aid this year when lawmakers vote on a new Farm Bill. Christopher Barrett, an expert on food aid at Cornell University, is one of many scholars, politicians and aid agencies demanding reform.

“A conservative estimate is that we sacrifice roughly 40,000 children’s lives annually because of antiquated food aid policies,” he told Congress in November.


In 2011, a few donors gave out cash in Somalia, but the World Food Programme only gave out food. It was often hijacked by warlords or pirates, or rotted under tarpaulins as trucks sat at roadblocks.

Starving families had to trek for days through the desert to reach distribution points. Their route became so littered with children’s corpses it was called “the Road of Death”.

Now, more than 70 percent of WFP aid in Somalia is cash, much of it distributed via mobile phones. More than 50 other charities are also giving out cash: each month Mohamed receives $65 from the Italian aid group Coopi to spend as she wants: milk, medicine, food or school fees.

Cash has many advantages over food aid if markets are functioning. It’s invisible, so less likely to be stolen. It’s mobile so families can move or stay put.
WFP said it gave out $134 million directly to Somali families to spend at local shops last year.

“We … basically gave confidence to the market to stay active,” said Laurent Bukera, head of WFP Somalia.

And money is more efficient than bags of food: in Somalia, cash aid means 80 cents in every $1 goes directly to the family, rather than 60 cents from food aid, said Calum McLean, the cash expert at the European Union’s humanitarian aid department.

Cash might have saved little Abdirahman.

“I could have stayed in my village if I had had cash. There was some food in the markets. It was expensive, but if you had money, there was food to buy,” Mohamed said sadly.


Aid groups have been experimenting with cash for two decades but McLean says the idea took off five years ago as the Syrian civil war propelled millions of refugees into countries with solid banking systems.

Donors have adapted. Six years ago, five percent of the EU’s humanitarian aid budget was cash distributions. Today, it is more than a third.

Most of the initial cost lies in setting up the database and the distribution system. After that, adding more recipients is cheap, McLean said. Amounts can be easily adjusted depending on the level of need or funding.

“Cash distributions also becomes cheaper the larger scale you do it,” he said.

Most U.S. international food assistance is delivered by USAID’s Food for Peace Office, which had a budget of $3.6 billion in 2017.

Just under half those funds came through U.S. Farm Bill Title II appropriations, which stipulate that most food must be bought from American farmers. The U.S. Cargo Preference Act requires that half of this be shipped on U.S.-flagged vessels.

Despite these restrictions, Food for Peace increased cash and voucher programs from 3 percent of the budget in 2011 to 20 percent last year.

But sourcing food aid in the United States is expensive and wasteful, said Barrett, who oversaw a study that found buying grain close to an emergency was half the price and 14 weeks faster. Arguments that food aid supported U.S. farmers or mariners were largely false, he said.


Aid groups use different systems to distribute cash, but most assess families, then register them in a biometric database, usually via fingerprints. Cash is distributed using bank cards or mobile phones or as vouchers.

Some charities place no restrictions on the cash; others, like WFP, stipulate it can only be spent at certain shops with registered shopkeepers.

In Dollow, the dusty town on the Ethiopian border where Mohamed lives with her surviving children, families say the cash has transformed their lives.

Gacalo Aden Hashi, a young mother whose name means “sweetheart”, remembers trudging past two dead children in 2011 on her way to get help. A third was alive but dying, she said, and her weakened family had to press on.

When she arrived at the camp, men were stealing food aid to give to their families, she said.

“Men were punching each other in line every time at food distributions,” she said. “Sometimes you would be sitting and suddenly your food would be taken by some strong young man.”

Now, she says, no one can steal her money – Coopi uses a system that requires a PIN to withdraw money. Most of her cash goes on food but with a group of other women she saved enough to open a small stall.

“The cash may end, but this business will not,” she said.


Cash won’t work everywhere. In South Sudan, where famine briefly hit two counties last year, the civil war shut markets, forcing aid agencies to bring in food by plane and truck.

Sending cash to areas hit by earthquakes would drive up prices. But in a drought, where livelihoods have collapsed but infrastructure is intact, cash transfers are ideal, experts say.

Some problems remain. There’s often little co-ordination among donors – for instance, there are seven separate databases in Somalia, said McLean, and monthly stipends can vary widely.

In Uganda, authorities are investigating reports of fraud after the government used its own biometric registration system for refugees.

And if there’s no clean water or health service available, then refugees can’t spend money buying water or medicine.

But most scholars agree that switching to more cash aid would save more lives, a 2016 briefing paper by the Congressional Research Service concluded.

(Additional reporting by George Obulutsa; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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Briefing Room

In Somalia, women defy strict rules to play football



MOGADISHU – (AFP) – Shortly after sunrise, a group of young women arrives at a football pitch in Mogadishu, where they shrug off their hijabs — some changing underneath the billowing veil — to reveal their team kit.

Young Somali men stand nearby, some disapproving but all watching closely, as the women jog up and down, dribble a worn-out ball between colourful cones and do sit-ups, less than 200 metres (656 feet) from a heavily guarded security checkpoint.

The sight of young women playing football is highly unusual in Somalia, due to societal pressures as well as fear of Al-Shabaab.

The Al-Qaeda linked Islamist group launches regular attacks in Mogadishu and considers forms of entertainment, such as football, to be evil, worse still if women are involved.

“It is obvious that we are scared despite the fact that we put on heavy clothes over our shorts and T-shirts (until) we get to the pitch. It is very difficult to walk normally with sports clothes — we never wear sports clothing in society,” said Hibaq Abdukadir, 20, one of the footballers.

She is among 60 girls, who have signed up to train at the Golden Girls Centre in Mogadishu, Somalia’s first female soccer club.

‘Think differently’

Mohamed Abukar Ali, the 28-year-old co-founder of the centre, said he was inspired to create the club after he realised that Somalia had no female footballers.

“We are… trying to make these girls the first Somali female football professionals,” he said.

However this is not an easy task.

Somali football players of Golden Girls Football Centre, Somalia’s first female soccer club, attend their training session at Toyo stadium in Mogadishu, on March 5, 2018. PHOTO | MOHAMED ABDIWAHAB |AFP

“When the girls have to attend training sessions, we have to organise to pick them up and bring them here and back home after the session because they are girls and we think about their security,” said Ali.

“There are so many challenges, from security to lack of resources… but that will not deter our ambition to establish female football clubs in this country,” he said. “We believe it is the right time and we should have the courage to think differently.”
‘They look naked’

Many of the girls who have joined the club said they had always wanted to try playing football but never had the opportunity.

“I have been playing football for seven months, but my family has only known about it for two months,” said Sohad Mohamed, 19.

“I used to dodge my mother about where I was going because she would not allow me to play football, but at least my mum is okay with it now, even though the rest of my family is not happy.”

In Somalia, it is taboo for women to appear in public dressed in shorts, trousers or T-shirts, with Islamic scholars saying sports clothing is not appropriate Islamic dress for women.

The players wear tights underneath their baggy shorts, and cover their hair, but still face criticism for their dress.

“I come to watch them train but frankly speaking, I would not be happy to see my sister doing it, this is not good in society’s eyes because they look naked,” said Yusuf Abdirahman, who lives near the football field.

Mohamed Yahye, another onlooker, is happy to see women playing football but is also concerned about how they are dressed.

“I think there is nothing wrong with women playing football, the only thing they should change is the dress code, they need to wear something that is not slim-fitting. But as long as their body is not seen, they are in line with the Islamic dress codes,” he said.

However the Golden Girls are not fazed.

“My ambition is so high that I aim for the same progress as those female footballers who play for Barcelona,” said Abdukadir.

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