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IN HARGEISA, UN ENVOY CALLS FOR CALM AND DIALOGUE FOLLOWING CLASHES

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The top United Nations envoy for Somalia has called for calm and dialogue amid reports of clashes between security forces from ‘Somaliland’ and neighbouring Puntland.

“Our position is to try and reduce tensions (and) to increase dialogue very quickly between both sides, so that if there are misunderstandings, these are clarified,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Michael Keating, while in Hargeisa, the capital of ‘Somaliland.’

“If there are genuine differences, then they have to be subject to immediate discussion,” he added. “But resorting to military solutions and to violence is not the way to resolve these problems.”

The UN envoy was speaking at a joint press encounter yesterday with ‘Somaliland’s’ Foreign Minister, Saad Ali Shire, after having met with ‘Somaliland’s’ President Muse Bihi Abdi – their first meeting since the latter was elected late last year.

Earlier this week, there were reports of clashes between security forces in the Sool region, part of a disputed area claimed by both ‘Somaliland’ and Puntland, located on the north-eastern tip of the Horn of Africa.

In their meeting, Mr. Keating and Mr. Bihi Abdi discussed the new government’s priorities, as well as the latest security issues.

“I was very impressed by and grateful to the President for his commitment, borne from his many decades of personal experience, of the importance of finding peaceful solutions to problems, “ he said, “and that a priority must be to try and prevent violence of any kind, whether in ‘Somaliland,’ or, indeed, between ‘Somaliland’ and others.”

While in Hargeisa, the UN envoy also met with several cabinet ministers to discuss various topics, including education, health, security, the impact of drought and employment, and how the United Nations can best provide support in addressing humanitarian and development challenges in these areas. Similar meetings were subsequently held with civil society representatives.

Part of the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) – which Mr. Keating also heads and which has an office in Hargeisa – is to support ‘Somaliland’ efforts towards a politically stable and democratic system that adheres to the principles of good governance.

Visit to Laas Geel highlights rich heritage and economic potential

The Special Representative also visited the Laas Geel rock shelters, located an hour north-east of Hargesia, and the location of Neolithic paintings dating back several thousands of years.

“One of the reasons I wanted to come here is because it’s good to be reminded that (while) the image of this part of the world is about conflict and so much despair and suffering, and yet it’s also one of the cradles of civilization,” Mr. Keating said.

“So while it’s a resource for the world, it’s also very important for Somalis to know that they are living in a land with great history and traditions and that is changing and is dynamic,” he added.

French researchers came across the site during an archaeological survey of the area in 2002, and it is considered to be one of the oldest rock art sites in Africa and the most important ancient site in ‘Somaliland.’ The paintings depict wild animals, decorated cattle and herders,.

According to local authorities, up to 200 hundred visitors, from the region and abroad, make the trek to the site each month, despite access difficulties and concerns over security.

“That would suggest that the potential is indeed enormous, and not just limited to rock caves, “ said Mr. Keating. “There’s the natural environment, the coast and the beaches are incredible, the potential for tourism is enormous.”

There have been concerns over recent years that the site’s paintings are under threat of serious deterioration from their exposure to the elements as well as local animals.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) sent a team to review the site in 2016. It has made recommendations on how to best safeguard it, and is working with local authorities on putting those measures in place.

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Somali News

Somali fisherwoman breaks boundaries in Mogadishu

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Riyan Abukar Ali is determined to succeed as a fisherwoman in Somalia, in a trade dominated by men.

She used be a tuk-tuk driver, but took to the seas off the coast of the capital Mogadishu when the social pressures of being a woman in her previous job became too much.

Video journalists: Alinur Hassan and Mohamud Abdisamad

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Ethiopian PM says they will continue to develop Berbera Port so Ethiopia and Somaliland can benefit

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Somalia’s al Shabaab denounces ex-spokesman as apostate who could be killed

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Somali al Shabaab Islamist militants, who have carried out frequent bombings in the capital, Mogadishu, said a former leader who defected to the government side was an apostate who could be killed.

Al Shabaab fell out with its former spokesman and deputy leader, Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansur, in 2013. He defected to the U.N.-backed government in August last year.

Al Shabaab has been fighting for years to try to topple Somalia’s central government and rule the Horn of Africa country according to its own interpretation of Islamic law.

“If Mukhtar Robow thinks he can destroy Islamic sharia and the mujahedeen, he is deluded. Allah will protect Islam and Jihad will not stop just because of you and your likes who joined the enemies,” Ali Mohamud Rage, al Shabaab’s spokesman, said in a video posted late on Monday.

It was not immediately possible to reach Robow for comment.

“No doubt, Mukhtar Robow left his religion and joined the disbelievers and the enemies are still the enemies,” al shabaab’s spokesman said.

“Anybody who joins the line of non-Muslims is an apostate who can be killed.”

A report by rights body Human Rights Watch released on Monday said al Shabaab had threatened and abducted civilians in Somalia’s Bay region to force communities to hand over their children for indoctrination and military training in recent months.

“Al Shabaab’s ruthless recruitment campaign is taking rural children from their parents so they can serve this militant armed group,” said Laetitia Bader, senior Africa researcher for the rights body.

The insurgents, who are allied with al Qaeda, were driven out of the capital Mogadishu in 2011. They have also since lost nearly all other territory they previously controlled after an offensive by Somali government troops and African Union-mandated AMISOM peacekeepers.

Al Shabaab, however, remains a formidable threat and has carried out bombings both in Mogadishu and other towns against military and civilian targets.

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