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No talking to Shabaab, say leaders; little do they know



The bombs won’t stop in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

As the country was still reeling from the shock and horror of the deadliest ever single bomb attack in Somalia’s capital on October 14, the terrorists struck again on October 28.

The October 14 bombing was so bloody that, although Al Shabaab was widely seen as being responsible, it dared not claim it. This has led to the theory that the driver set off the bomb prematurely, and it was meant for a different target with a more “reasonable kill rate.”

Al Shabaab, though, took full responsibility for the latest attack, which started after a suicide car bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at the entrance gate of a Mogadishu hotel.

Security forces ended a night-long siege that followed at a hotel by five terrorists, which left 23 people dead and more than 30 injured. For Al Shabaab, that number of casualties apparently is just about right.

The response to the attacks has been firm. The US promised to up its support for the war against the militants. Uganda, which already has the largest number of troops in the African Union peacekeeping enterprise in Somalia, Amisom, reportedly offered an additional 5,000 men.

There was, understandably, no talk of negotiations with Al Shabaab.

The ironical thing about that is that the foot soldiers of Amisom and Al Shabaab, know better.

While their presidents and generals talk tough, the “small” soldiers and militants have been doing business and talking. If it were left to them, they might already have clinched a political deal.

For years, some Ugandan Amisom officers and soldiers have been doing business with the Shabaab, including selling them arms.

A few have been arrested and tried back home in Uganda.

However, it would have been also useful to ask them: “Okay, these Shabaab buddies of yours to whom you sell guns, why can’t you ask them what deal they are willing to take to end this war?” No one did. What a waste.

A brilliant researcher on Somalia tells of what is happening today in some parts of the country.

There are some Al Shabaab and Amisom roadblocks that are only a few kilometres apart. The soldiers on two sides have reached an understanding on how to tax goods.
If a trader arrives with his truck at an Amisom roadblock first, he will pay the boys, say the equivalent of $50.

The soldiers will shoot in the air in a coded pattern, to alert the Shabaab roadblock that they have already taken their cut. Shabaab then will know how much to extract. It will probably also take $50.

If the goods truck arrives at an Al Shabaab roadblock first, the militants will take their bit, and shoot in the air to report to Amisom, who will know how much has been left for them.

It’s totally mind-bending, and quite impressive. If you think coldly about it, there is a higher level of political consensus between elements in Amisom and Shabaab, than there is between incumbent politicians of the troop-contributing countries like Kenya, Uganda, Burundi – and the US – and their opposition parties back home!

Amisom is a peacekeeping mission, and it has all it needs to make peace in Somalia. It’s just that for now it is using it for war-war not yaw-yaw.


Anglo-Turkish Genel Energy might starting drilling in Somaliland in 2019 -CEO



LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) – Kurdistan-focused Genel Energy might start drilling in Somaliland next year, Chief Executive Murat Ozgul said on Thursday, as the group reported 2017 results broadly in line with expectations.

“For the long term, I really like (our) Somaliland exploration assets. It’s giving me a sense of Kurdistan 15 years ago,” Ozgul said in a phone interview. “In 2019 we may be (starting) the drilling activities.”

Chief Financial Officer Esa Ikaheimonen said Genel will focus spending money from its $162 million cash pile on its existing assets in Kurdistan but added: “You might see us finding opportunities… somewhere outside Kurdistan.”

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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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