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How the Gulf crisis is destabilising Somalia

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The Saudi Arabia-United Arab Emirates (UAE) decision to break relations with Qatar, and more importantly their insistence for others to follow their lead, has pitted the Federal Government of Somalia (‘Somali government’) against many of its federal member states. This has created a serious challenge for the country’s nascent state-building process.

When Saudi Arabia cut ties with Qatar in June this year, it was the third time in three years that the nation (with the UAE close behind) had called on the Horn of Africa to remake its foreign policy in line with Riyadh. In 2015, Saudi Arabia convinced the entire Horn – except Ethiopia – to sign up to its coalition against the Houthi movement in Yemen; a key priority given Iran’s support for the Houthis, who are also Shia Muslims. Then in early 2016 when Saudi Arabia broke relations with Iran, Djibouti, Sudan and Somalia did so as well.

Both these developments demonstrated how Saudi Arabia views its relationship with the Horn first and foremost via the prism of its proxy war with Iran, and the success its incentive-laden foreign policy has had on this front. After the break in relations with Qatar, Somalia – under the newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmajo) – remained neutral. This threw Somalia into chaos, with the government coming under fire both internally and externally.

At heart are two interrelated concerns – unclear definitions of the roles and responsibilities between the Somali government and the six federal member states in practice; and the undercutting of the weak Somali state-building project by external actors.

In the first instance, Farmajo’s position has proved unpopular to many in Somalia who believe the potential benefits of siding with Saudi Arabia and the UAE far outweigh those associated with neutrality (which in essence is a vote for Qatar). Opponents note that the Saudi Arabia-UAE contingent offers Somalia much more in terms of a market for livestock exports, a source of migrant remittances and opportunities for ports management than Qatar can compete with. Nonetheless, Farmajo has held his ground.

In August Puntland announced it was breaking from the Somali government’s position of neutrality, citing its strategic relationships with Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The Dubai-based P&O Ports secured a 30-year concession for Puntland’s main port of Bosaso earlier this year, which probably influenced the decision and underlined the claim that siding with the Saudi-UAE camp was more beneficial.

This presented a clear challenge to the Somali government. Article 54 of the Somali Provisional Constitution allocates it the sole responsibility for foreign affairs, but Article 53 notes that the government should consult the federal member states ‘on negotiations relating to foreign aid, trade, treaties, or other major issues related to international agreements’.

It was the lack of consultation that Puntland cited. Its decision was followed in September by similar declarations from the South West and Galmudug administrations, openly challenging the Somali government’s policy. Both regions also cited the lack of consultation, again raising questions as to specific roles and responsibilities within Somalia’s federal system.

The challenges have not stopped there. Days after announcing his break with Farmajo’s foreign policy, Galmudug regional president Ahmed Duale Gelle Haaf was voted out of office by a faction of his region’s lawmakers. The Somali government supported the move, which Haaf claimed was illegal, orchestrated from Mogadishu and in reaction to his foreign policy stance. Other federal member states agreed, opposing Haaf’s ousting and the government’s apparent interference. Haaf himself maintained the support of another faction, in effect dividing Galmudug in two.

These developments demonstrate how the relationship between the Somali government and its federal member states is being threatened, with the resulting politicking a worrying prospect for building Somali stability at a local level. A similar no confidence motion may occur in the South West, while ex-HirShabelle leader Ali Abdullahi Osoble was also removed from office shorty after opposing the government’s stance.

The need for clearly defined roles and responsibilities in Somalia’s federal system is apparent now more than ever. The lack of agreement means that parties work together when convenient, but don’t when it’s not. It also allows for manipulation underpinned by a lack of trust, with accusations of the Somali government’s involvement in internal federal member state electoral processes, and the latter’s demands for a role in foreign affairs.

The tensions between the government and the federal member states go well beyond the Qatar crisis, and remain perhaps the biggest stumbling block to resurrecting a coherent Somali state.

Nonetheless, while the crisis has highlighted this internal dilemma, this has been exacerbated by outside actors. Not being able to convince Farmajo to change his mind, the UAE set out instead to undermine his position by appealing directly to the federal member states. For example, South West leader Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden reportedly visited the UAE right before his decision, while Haaf travelled there right after.

The UAE has always maintained relations with Somalia’s federal member states in a way that other external actors involved in Somalia, such as Turkey, have not. Yet the UAE’s active bypassing of the Somali government in this case undermines its authority, contributing to an erosion of the state-building process in which the international community has invested so much.

In this sense, it highlights another common problem inherent in the Somali arena – international actors may engage a weak Somali government when it suits their needs, but pursue other means when it doesn’t. (Saudi Arabia is taking a different tack than the UAE, however, as Farmajo recently visited the country and secured a $50-million donation for the Somali government.)

In short, the Qatar crisis has highlighted some major tensions in Somalia’s state-building process, demonstrating how easily this fragile project can become unhinged. Until there is clear agreement between the Federal Government of Somalia and the federal member states on the roles and responsibilities of each, combined with implementation mechanisms and respect from external actors, state-building in Somalia will be subject to persistent crises and incremental gains.

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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