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How many dead Somalis does it take for us to care?

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Nadifa Mohamed, a British-Somali novelist, is the author of the novels “Black Mamba Boy” and “The Orchard of Lost Souls.”

For over a week now, since the shocking attack that killed hundreds of people in Mogadishu, I’ve been seeking to raise money for the only free ambulance service in the Somali capital. But as the days have gone I’ve noticed just how muted the public and official response has been to what – with 358 dead, 56 missing and 228 injured – must count among the world’s worst terror atrocities.
On hearing the first reports and seeing pictures of the vast black plume of smoke, I realised this was unlike the typical, low-level terror attacks that have plagued Mogadishu.

The Zoobe district was a lively area shaded by palm trees, full of small traders, businesses, hotels and cafes – with a busy four-lane highway cutting through it. At 3pm on the day, people were shifting gears: from primary school to home, from university to socialising, from siesta to work. Suddenly every building in the district was flattened, ash and dust billowing away to reveal total devastation – as if the district had seen months of war and heavy shelling.

The remains of the first 165 unidentified victims were so badly damaged that what could be found was hastily buried in a mass funeral the next day. The truck bomb went off beside a fuel tanker so there are people who will never be traced, whose disappearance has left families emotionally and financially crippled.
You see their names and faces on Gurmad252, a crisis response organisation staffed by volunteers who aim to identify the victims of the attack and raise funds for the survivors. Many of the missing were just starting their lives, unsurprising for a country where 62% of the population is under 24 years old: they include first division footballers (Mustaf Qoor), medical students just about to qualify (Maryan Cabdullahi), shoe-shiners (Catar Aden) and so many more.

The militant group al-Shabaab, which has lost much of the territory it controlled in Somalia over the last few years, continues to snipe away at soft targets. It is yet to take responsibility for the Zoobe attack, but there is little doubt regarding its culpability.

The famed make-do-and-mend resilience of Mogadishu is built on the reputation of groups such as Aamin Ambulance. I had first seen their work online, a few months ago, when they responded to a much smaller attack.

They rushed to the scene even though security forces often fire at ambulances in the confusion of smoke and crowds. And when I contacted them via Twitter on the night of the attack their primary concern was not for themselves, but whether there would be another attack that they would not have the resources to deal with.

Led by a dentist, Abdulkadir Adan – who was inspired by the work of the Pakistani humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi – the service rushes into danger zones in a fleet of second-hand ambulances that once belonged to the fire service of a tiny Japanese island. They needed radios urgently, Adan said, because they relied on mobile phones to communicate, and the network was jammed with people trying to locate loved ones.

The GoFundMe appeal for Aamin Ambulance quickly took on a life of its own with donations from the supermodel Iman, the rapper K’naan and the group Coldplay: from Finland to South Korea, money arrives.

We raised our target two times, and were elated when the United Nations donated 36 radios – so we could concentrate on other urgent supplies. I saw humanity and solidarity and didn’t think to ask who hadn’t been moved by this catastrophe – until I realised that London, my home city, had not marked this atrocity the way it has those in western cities: no flags at half-mast, no illumination of the London Eye in the blue and white of the Somali flag – not even a tweet from mayor Sadiq Khan. This failure to respond publicly was not inevitable but a choice – a choice that was not made in Istanbul, Toronto, Paris or Kuala Lumpur.

So how many dead Somalis does it take to muster the kind of sympathy that gushes out for cities closer to home?.Well, it seems that 358 dead is too low.

Despite some western newspapers, including the Guardian, putting the attack on their front pages, compassion seems to be ebbing daily. There are many out there who prefer easy, flippant excuses – “That’s the religion of peace for you” – than to use their imagination and curiosity to offer sympathy to an individual who suffers and grieves no less than they.

Donate at : https://www.gofundme.com/HelpAaminAmbulance

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Opinion

For Africa to root out modern day slave trade, youth empowerment is crucial

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Libya has become a modern-day slave market, keeping migrants at the mercy of a complex trafficking web tolerated by the country’s many militia groups, an issue largely ignored by the world, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer said on Wednesday. Narciso Contreras, who spoke to migrants kept as slaves during a documentary photography project in Libya, said global attention focused on the North African country as a gateway for migrants attempting to reach Europe by sea.

 

Ambassador Amina Mohamed
Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Republic of Kenya

If the thought of a man armed with a rifle and driving with whips a group of African men, women, and children to sell them at a slave market makes you marvel at what kind of greed motivated such revolting barbarity centuries ago, the shocking truth is that we are witnessing a 21st century repeat of that abhorrent practice on African soil.

Kudos to the team from CNN led by International Correspondent, Nima Elbagir, who uncovered a human trafficking ring in Libya which specializes in selling human beings as slaves and sex workers.

Now we know.

For those of us who were at the Durban World Conference Against Racism 16 years ago when slavery and slave trade were declared crimes against humanity, our horror and sadness at reports that sub-Saharan migrants are being sold at slave markets in Libya is immeasurable. That the world would be silent as this heinous crime was reported is something we cannot comprehend and tolerate.

That a people and country that claim African citizenry can practice this repulsion in a continent that bears so many scars is scary at so many levels. For several years now, Libya has continued to serve as the primary departure point for migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa, with more than 90 percent of those crossing the Mediterranean Sea departing from Libya.

Often, migrants to forced labour and forced prostitution through fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or non-payment of wages, and debt bondage.

Reports of auctioneers advertising a group of West African migrants as ‘big strong boys for farm work’, and references to the migrants as ‘merchandise’ indicates a new low, and human rapacity that is difficult to comprehend in the modern age.

It defies at a horrid level international statutes such as The Universal Declaration of Human Rights that prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude as well as the more recent UN Palermo Protocol that made the abolition of modern-day slavery a part of international law.

The conscience of the Libyan nation must be roused; its propriety must be startled. All Libyans must vehemently reject the inhumane practice of slave auctions that will forever blight their history and shred to pieces their relationship with the rest of humanity. I know that the frightened faces of human beings turned into merchandise and put in cages that haunts our collective psyche also affects Libyans of goodwill.

The African Union Commission has condemned this trade as an ‘egregious abuse of human rights’ and demanded that the culprits be brought to justice and this violation of fundamental human rights be immediately ended. As Africans we will discuss the slave auctions in Libya at all fora, African and otherwise until we finally and conclusively deal with it.

Horrifying as the situation in Libya is, migration elsewhere in the world continues to be an avenue through which many men, women, and children continue to live in modern-day slavery through the scourge of human trafficking.

Unlike the ages gone by, today’s victims may not be in iron fetters, but most are poverty-stricken and forced to migrate for work, believing it presents an opportunity to change their lives and support their families. It is a desperation that comes with extreme costs in the form of modern slavery.

While everyone must denounce everything that serves to perpetuate slavery, African countries must now begin confronting the factors that force thousands of people to risk their lives seeking a fighting chance for survival abroad through illegal migration.

A report from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees has shown that that seven in ten of those heading for Europe are not refugees fleeing war or persecution, but economic migrants in search of better lives.

Africa must give special priority to those SDGs that will give the continent a competitive edge through its youth. These include ending poverty, ensuring healthy lives and ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education, all which have particular resonance with the challenge of empowering youth and making them effective economic citizens.

With between 10 and 12 million Africans joining the African labour force each year and a continent that creates only 3.7 million jobs annually, there is hard work to be done if we are to extirpate the shame of modern slavery.

The UN Secretary General Mr Antonio Guterres remarked, “Slavery has no place in our world and these actions are among the most egregious abuses of human rights and may amount to crimes against humanity”

Like our forefathers who fought against the obdurate slave-drivers of yesteryears, we too must be determined that development priorities are geared towards nipping all circumstances that abet the horrid human trafficking trade.

This Article was published in Huffington Post.

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Briefing Room

Saving Somalia Through Debt Relief

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KEVIN WATKINS

Kevin Charles Watkins is the Chief Executive of Save the Children UK

Somalia needs humanitarian aid to stem its short-term suffering, but that cash will not break the country’s deadly cycles of drought, hunger, and poverty. To do that, the IMF must forgive Somalia’s crushing debt, just as it has for nearly every other heavily indebted poor country.

LONDON – Julius Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, once asked his country’s creditors a blunt question: “Must we starve our children to pay our debts?” That was in 1986, before the public campaigns and initiatives that removed much of Africa’s crushing and unpayable debt burden. But Nyerere’s question still hangs like a dark cloud over Somalia.

Over the last year, an unprecedented humanitarian effort has pulled Somalia back from the brink of famine. As the worst drought in living memory destroyed harvests and decimated livestock, almost $1 billion was mobilized in emergency aid for nutrition, health, and clean water provision. That aid saved many lives and prevented a slow-motion replay of the 2011 drought, when delayed international action resulted in nearly 260,000 deaths.

Yet, even after these recent efforts, Somalia’s fate hangs in the balance. Early warning systems are pointing to a prospective famine in 2018. Poor and erratic rains have left 2.5 million people facing an ongoing food crisis; some 400,000 children live with acute malnutrition; food prices are rising; and dry wells have left communities dependent on expensive trucked water.

Humanitarian aid remains essential. Almost half of Somalia’s 14 million people need support, according to UN agencies. But humanitarian aid, which is often volatile and overwhelmingly short-term, will not break the deadly cycles of drought, hunger, and poverty. If Somalia is to develop its health and education systems, economic infrastructure, and the social protection programs needed to build a more resilient future, it needs predictable, long-term development finance.

Debt represents a barrier to that finance. Somalia’s external debt is running at $5 billion. Creditors range from rich countries like the United States, France, and Italy, to regional governments and financial institutions, including the Arab Monetary Fund.

But Somalia’s debt also includes $325 million in arrears owed to the International Monetary Fund. And there’s the rub: countries in arrears to the IMF are ineligible to receive long-term financing from other sources, including the World Bank’s $75 billion concessional International Development Association (IDA) facility.

Much of the country’s current debt dates to the Cold War, when the world’s superpower rivalry played out in the Horn of Africa. Over 90% of Somalia’s debt burden is accounted for by arrears on credit advanced in the early 1980s, well before two-thirds of today’s Somali population was born.

Most of the lending then was directed to President Siad Barre as a reward for his abandonment of the Soviet Union and embrace of the West. Military credits figured prominently: over half of the $973 million in US debt is owed to the Department of Defense. Somalia got state-of-the-art weaponry, liberally financed by loans. The IMF was nudged into guaranteeing repayment through a structural adjustment program.  Repaying the debt today would cost every Somali man, woman, and child $361.

None of this would matter if Somalia had qualified for debt reduction. The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC), created in response to the great debt relief campaigns of the 1990s, has written off around $77 billion in debt for 36 countries. Somalia is one of just three countries that have yet to qualify. The reason: the arrears owed to the IMF. (Eritrea and Sudan have also not qualified, for similar reasons).

The IMF view is that Somalia, like earlier HIPC beneficiaries, should establish a track record of economic reform. This will delay a full debt write-off for up to three years, exclude Somalia from long-term development finance, and reinforce its dependence on emergency aid. Other creditors have endorsed this approach through silent consent.

Somalia deserves better. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s government has demonstrated a commitment to economic reform, improved accountability, and transparency. For two years, it has adhered to an IMF program, achieving targets for improving public finance and the banking sector. More needs to be done, especially in terms of domestic resource mobilization. But this is the first Somali government to provide the international community with a window of opportunity to support recovery. We must capitalize on it.

Waiting three more years as Somalia ticks the IMF’s internal accounting boxes would be a triumph of bureaucratic complacency over human needs. Without international support, Somalia’s government lacks the resources needed to break the deadly cycle of drought, hunger, and poverty.

Somalia’s children need investment in health, nutrition, and schools now, not at some point in the indefinite future. Investing in irrigation and water management would boost productivity. With drought-related livestock and crop losses estimated at around $1.5 billion, government-supported cash payment programs would help aid recovery, strengthen resilience, and build trust.

The benefits of these investments would extend to security. Providing the hope that comes with education, health care, and the prospect of a job is a far more effective weapon than a drone to combat an insurgency that feeds on despair, poverty, joblessness, and the absence of basic services.

There is an alternative to IMF-sponsored inertia on debt relief. The World Bank and major creditors could convene a creditor summit to agree to terms for a prompt debt write-off. More immediately, the World Bank could seek its shareholders’ approval for a special mechanism – a “pre-arrears clearance grant” – that would enable Somalia to receive IDA financing. There is a precedent for this: In 2005, the US championed World Bank financing for Liberia, which at the time had significant IMF debt after emerging from civil war.

The technicalities can be discussed and the complexities resolved. But we should not lose sight of what is at stake. It is indefensible for the IMF and other creditors to obstruct Somalia’s access to financing because of arrears on a debt incurred three decades ago as much through reckless lending as through irresponsible borrowing.

Somalia’s children played no part in creating that debt. They should not have to pay for it with their futures.

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Opinion

United Arab Emirates plays destructive role in Somalia

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SHAKIR HUSAIN

Somalia suffered two big terrorist bombings in October. The carnage caused by the car blasts on Oct. 28 was immense, although nowhere close to the death and destruction following the Oct. 14 attacks that killed 358 people.

Western news reports regularly blame terrorist acts in Somalia on the shadowy al-Shabaab group. Such media coverage ignores the fact that Somalia is a victim of ugly geopolitics that seeks control of the nation, while seeking to annihilate its population through wars, terrorism and man-made disasters.

The United States and its Western crime partners have tried to destroy and subjugate Somalia for many years. Whether the U.S. bombs Somalia in the name of fighting the al-Shabaab terrorist group or Britain tries to cause misery to its people through curbs on remittances, their goals are sinister in seeking extermination of a part of the human race. They are trying to achieve what Europe’s colonialism failed to accomplish.

Countries like the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia also have geopolitical goals in trying to control Somalia. There is an element of power madness in the Saudi bloc these days, as abhorrent as it may seem, but their egos get satisfaction from serving Western bloc leaders be they American, British, French, Israeli or German. They are salivating at the prospect of grabbing more than 3,300 kilometers of coastline, energy and marine resources. They are willing to spill Somali blood as long as there is the slightest chance of even partially achieving their goals. A clear message must be sent to these saboteurs to cease their destructive acts forthwith.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia can be accused of such behavior as they are unable to explain what benefits their military and foreign policy adventures bring to their own populations or to the wider region. Prima facie, their actions advance the West’s colonial and imperial interests. The conduct of these countries is hostile toward Somalia. Their arrogance requires them to try to overpower a country that is struggling economically and politically.

The UAE and those who control its leaders appear to have suddenly woken up to Somalia’s significance as a nation. One of their goals is to destroy Somali-Turkish friendship and alliance. If Somalia was so important to them, they could have used their resources to help it recover from war and famine. But that is not how the UAE operates.

To cause suffering and misery to the maximum number of people is always a deliberate act of any U.S.-led war. American actions in Somalia are in line with this policy. When Saudi Arabia and the UAE use their resources for apparent charitable causes, they do so as per the wishes of their Western masters. It should not surprise anyone that these two countries showed neither Islamic nor regional solidarity with Somalia when it was reeling under severe famine. Islamic concepts of welfare and justice are anathema to them. Joining “jahiliyyah” and Zionist causes has become fashionable in the Gulf region.

The geopolitical calculations of the UAE and Saudi Arabia along with the Western gang seem to have changed following Turkey’s determination to help Somalia. They understand that in Turkey they are dealing with a serious nation that is capable of helping Somalia defeat international terrorism.

Since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Mogadishu in 2011, Turkey has become involved in numerous projects in Somalia to help it become a stable, strong nation in every way. But this relationship works against the interest of those who seek to exploit and rob both Somalia and the wider African region. The international alliance of neocons and Zionists knows how to manipulate Emirati and Saudi officials.

The recent Qatar crisis was another episode in the wider geopolitical game being played in the Middle East and Africa. According to reports, Saudi Arabia and the UAE offered tens of millions of dollars in bribes to get the government in Mogadishu on their side against Qatar. They failed, but that did not discourage these countries from trying to find new ways to put pressure on Somalia.

The UAE exploited instability in parts of Somalia to secure logistics projects. These include a concession from the semi-autonomous region of Puntland for Dubai-based DP World to develop the port of Bosaso. In Somaliland, DP World has a 30-year concession to develop a port at Berbera and plans to develop a so-called economic free zone.

After the terrorist attacks, influential Somali commentators mentioned the UAE as an agent of destruction against Somalia. They pointed out its dubious deals and unwarranted interference in Somali affairs. There have been calls to shut down its diplomatic mission in Somalia.

The UAE and its allies and masters see Turkey as a threat to their hegemonic plans for Africa. The ongoing war in Yemen is part of the same calculations, as the Arabian Peninsula nation is located near key maritime routes. Destabilizing Yemen was a Western plan being carried out through the UAE and Saudi Arabia. It is widely believed that Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, is influencing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to join his dead-end schemes.

Somalia’s enemies would like to find an excuse to launch an open war, but have opted for naked terrorism instead. Another type of terrorism is carried out by the U.S. through drone attacks, ensuring no Somali feels secure from America’s destructive power. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is also seen as playing a role in fomenting trouble in the country instead of carrying out its mandate of peace.

The newly established Turkish military facility will help Somalia develop strong defense capabilities, which in turn would work against Western excuses for creating the kind of military presence they have in neighboring Djibouti. Intelligence reports suggest the intended target of the massive bombing on Oct. 14 was this facility. These reports may or may not be accurate. After all, terrorists and their sponsors would have to take into account inevitable Turkish retaliation.

It must be noted that terrorism directed at Somalia has deliberately targeted civilian facilities. Mosques, government buildings, hotels, restaurants and markets have been bombed to ensure Somalia is kept destabilized for the vultures to invade it at a suitable opportunity. However, it would be a miscalculation on the part of the Western sabotage brigade and their Gulf minions to harbor such hopes. Somalia will grow stronger. Somalia will be victorious. The UAE, which is getting increasingly ambitious in its foreign activities, should try not to bite off more than they can chew.

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