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Qatar economic outlook downgraded hours before crunch Gulf meeting

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Ratings agency Moody’s has downgraded Qatar’s economic outlook as political uncertainty swirled ahead of a crunch meeting between Arab nations on Wednesday in Cairo.

A quartet of Arab nations said early on Wednesday it had received Qatar’s response to its demands for ending a diplomatic crisis gripping the Persian Gulf. Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates said only that they would respond “in a timely manner”.
Ratings agency Moody’s changed Qatar’s outlook to negative, saying this was largely due to the ongoing diplomatic dispute engulfing the tiny, energy-rich nation. Early on Wednesday it said “the likelihood of a prolonged period of uncertainty extending into 2018 has increased and a quick resolution of the dispute is unlikely over the next few months”. The turmoil “carries the risk that Qatar’s sovereign credit fundamentals could be negatively affected”, it added.

So far, Qatar’s exports of natural gas have yet to be affected, the agency said. Those exports make the small country’s citizens have the biggest per capita incomes in the world.

The quartet cut ties to the FIFA 2022 World Cup host early last month over its alleged support for extremist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies supporting extremists and has defended its warm relations with Iran; the two countries share a massive undersea natural gas field.

The nations issued a 13-point list of demands on 22 June, giving Qatar 10 days to comply. They later extended the deadline by another 48 hours at the request of Kuwait, which has acted as a mediator to resolve the crisis. That deadline expired early Wednesday.

Later on Wednesday, foreign ministers from the four Arab countries will meet in Cairo to discuss their next move. Late Tuesday, Egypt’s state-run Mena news agency reported intelligence agency chiefs from those countries had met in Cairo, likely discussing the crisis.
What Qatar said in response to the demands remains unclear. It already had called the demands, which include shutting down its al-Jazeera satellite news network, expelling Turkish military forces based in the country and paying restitution, as an affront to its sovereignty.

The crisis has become a global concern because neither side appears to be backing down. Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, hosts some 10,000 American troops at its sprawling al-Udeid air base. US secretary of state Rex Tillerson has been trying to ease tensions, while President Donald Trump’s comments on Qatar funding extremist groups back the Saudi-led countries’ position.

The nations could impose financial sanctions or force Qatar out of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a regional body known as the GCC that serves as a counterbalance to Iran.

Some Arab media outlets have suggested a military confrontation or a change of leadership in Qatar could be in the offing, but officials have said those options are not on the table.

On Tuesday, German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, visited officials in both the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. He said Germany supported the UAE’s efforts at confronting those who funded extremists.

“We now have this opportunity to reach good results for the benefit of the whole region. The matter is not related only to the sovereignty of Qatar,” Gabriel said. “We have to come back to common work at the GCC and for the Europeans this is a very important matter. For us, the GCC is the guarantor of stability and security in the region.”

Emirati foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan kept up the pressure on Qatar in his own remarks to journalists. “To defeat terrorism, we must confront extremism, we must confront hate speech, we must confront the harbouring and sheltering of extremists and terrorists, and funding them,” he said. “Unfortunately, we in this region see that our sister nation of Qatar has allowed and harboured and encouraged all of this.”

“Enough is enough,” he added.

Qatar’s foreign minister meanwhile criticised the four Arab nations for trying to isolate Qatar “under the banner of fighting terrorism”.

“When measures are clothed in this context, it is because they think they will be met with international sympathy because they are ‘anti-terrorism’ measures,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said.

Though Qatar Airways’ routes over its neighbours have been cut, along with the country’s sole land border with Saudi Arabia, the country has been able to source food from other countries. Its economy, fuelled by its natural gas exports, continues to hum along though there has been pressure on its stock market and currency.

Somali News

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince meets Somali President

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Abu Dhabi, Nov. 20 (BNA): Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and UAE Armed Forces Deputy Supreme Commander Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan received Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo, currently on visit to the United Arab Emirates.

The two sides discussed cooperation to combat terrorism, violence and armed groups and coordinate joint work to maintain security and stability in Somalia. They also reviewed regional and international developments and issues of mutual interest.

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Somali News

45 Years Ago, Somalia’s Siad Barre saves Idi Amin from Tanzanians

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Forty five years ago, Uganda was at war with rebels who had invaded its territory from neighbouring Tanzania.
The war that lasted no more than 72 hours started on September 16, 1972, when the enemy forces of the Front for National Salvation (Fronasa), led by Yoweri Museveni, and Kikosi-Maalum, commanded by Lt Col Tito Okello Lutwa, attacked Uganda from Mutukula and Isingiro border areas.

They were, however, easily repulsed by the Uganda Army. Kikosi-Maalum attacked Uganda from Mutukula while Fronasa entered Uganda through Isingiro and attacked Simba Barracks near Mbarara Town. Hundreds of their fighters were captured and killed.
Uganda Army lost 27 soldiers, among them Lieutenant Abdultif, the Air Force Company Commander of the Tiger Battalion, who was shot dead by a sniper in Mutukula.

Amin rushes to Mogadishu

Since the late 1980s, Somalia has battled with irregular regional forces, clan militias and now Islamist militant group al-Shabaab.
In 2007, Uganda sent troops to Somalia to try and bring order to the failed state. Uganda currently has more than 6,000 soldiers and officers serving as part of a 22,000-strong Amisom force.

But as a peaceful and stable country in 1972, Somalia acted as Uganda’s saviour. Uganda’s president Idi Amin in October 1972 ran to Somalia for help from his counterpart Siad Barre to fight off the threat coming from Tanzania.

Somalia bailed out Uganda by sending a peace keeping force while Libya under Col Muammar Gaddafi sent a fighting force. They arrived in Uganda a week after the September 16, 1972 invasion.

Mogadishu Accord

The Mogadishu Accord between Uganda and Tanzania was signed in October 1972 following talks facilitated by president Siad Barre. The accord had four major articles which included:

1. To cease forthwith all military operations of any kind against each territory and to withdraw not later than October 19, 1972, all their military forces to a distance not less than 10 kilometres from the common border,
2. To effect an immediate cessation of hostile propaganda invested against each other through radio, television and press,
3. To refrain from harbouring or allowing subversive forces to operate in the territory of state against the other,
4. Lastly to release nationals or property, if any, of the other state held by either state.

The accord was deemed to have come into effect on October 7, 1972, and it was simultaneously announced on radio in Dar es Salaam, Kampala and Mogadishu.

Uganda’s minister for Foreign Affairs Wanume Kibedi signed for Uganda. His counterpart John Malecela signed for Tanzania while Mr Jaalle Omala Arteh, Somalis secretary of state for foreign affairs, signed for his country.

The pact also resolved that Siad Barre appoint a neutral military observer team to monitor the progress of the agreement.

Indeed Barre came up with the Somali Military Observation Team (SMOT) to make sure that the two states withdrew their forces from the common border.

In the first week of November 1972, SMOT, led by Brig Nur Adow, arrived in Uganda. On November 10, 1972, they visited Mutukula and the following day visited Kikagati in Isingiro. The team was accompanied by the Ugandan commander of the Air Force, Col Gad Wilson Toko.

Brig Adow was quoted by the Uganda Argus of November 13, 1972, as saying: “The friendship between Uganda and Somalia will never break. Uganda and Somalia are setting a good example to the rest of Africa and I hope that African countries will follow suit.”

This he said while acknowledging that African countries can solve their problems themselves. Indeed, the Mogadishu Accord averted what could have become a costly war for the continent given that Libya had already sent in troops to support Amin’s regime and Zaire was also willing, while Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia were ready to support the invading forces in order to reinstate deposed president Milton Obote.

Jinja barracks renamed Gaddafi

During the burial of some of the soldiers killed during the Mutukula and Mbarara battles at the former Burma cemetery in Jinja, Amin told mourners that the Defence Council and Cabinet had decided that the military barracks in Jinja be renamed from King George VI Barracks to Col Gaddafi in appreciation of the military assistance he gave to Uganda when it was attacked. To this day, it is known as Gaddafi Barracks.

“Libya’s decision to come to Uganda’s aid was very historical and which the people of Uganda must never forget,” Amin was quoted as saying by the Uganda Argus of September 28, 1972.

Road named after Said Barre

In appreciation of Said Barre’s role in mediating a peace deal between Uganda and Tanzania, former Mackinnon Road in Kampala that joins Kampala Road to Nile Avenue was renamed Siad Barre Avenue, a name it carries to date.

As a return to the kind gesture, a road in Mogadishu was named Uganda Road.

During the naming ceremony, according to the Uganda Argus of October 23, 1972, the mayor of Mogadishu, Osman Mohamad, said: “Uganda Road is one of the most important roads in Mogadishu and symbolises true love which the people of Mogadishu and Somalia have for Ugandans.”

Exchange of prisoners of war 

On November 15, 1972, George Joseph Masanza, a Tanzanian spy captured inside Ugandan territory in August 1971, was released from Luzira Maximum Security Prison and handed over to SMOT’s Brig Adow who later handed him over to the Tanzanians.

Earlier on November 2, 1972, four Ugandans taken prisoners by the Tanzanian forces in 1971 were set free. The four were Suleiman Amule, Ali Ramathan, Ali Nasur and Moses Galla.

The four were handed over by the Tanzanian government to acting commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade in Masaka, Maj Isaac Malyamungu, in the presence of Mr Abdurrahman Hussein Mohamed, Somalis ambassador to Tanzania. The hand over was carried out at Mutukula border.

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Somali News

Somalia seeks help from US firm to further relations

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The Somalia government has retained a former US senator to lobby the Trump administration officials and members of Congress.

Under the terms of a recently signed contract, Somalia is agreeing to pay $120,000 (Sh12m) to a lobbying firm headed by Alfonse Marcello D’Amato, a Republican who represented New York state in the US Senate from 1981 to 1999.

The one-year deal also requires Somalia to reimburse Mr D’Amato’s firm, Park Strategies, for up to $36,000 in expenses such as travel and lodging.

PARK STRATEGIES
Documents on file with the US Justice Department include a pledge by the Somali government not to use foreign aid or humanitarian funds to pay for Mr D’Amato’s services.

“Park Strategies will provide strategic advice, counsel and advocacy to and on behalf of the Somali Republic in a collaborative effort to improve relations between the Somali Republic and the United States government,” the lobbying contract stipulates.

Somalia’s government has a life-or-death interest in ensuring that its relations with the US remain on a positive basis.

AMISOM
The US has provided Somalia with close to $2 billion in development aid and humanitarian relief during the past decade.

In addition, Washington has allocated $900 million in support of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), which includes forces from Kenya and four other East African nations.

Another $720 million in US funds have helped finance the United Nations operations in Somalia.

About 500 US troops are now on the ground inside Somalia, providing training and logistical assistance to Somalia’s army in its war against Al-Shabaab.

But this bounty is not entirely secure.

CORRUPTION

Critics in the US suggest that the US should rethink its commitment to Somalia due to evidence of massive corruption on the part of political and military leaders.

State Department and UN reports indicate that Somalia’s army remains incapable of effectively fighting Shabaab on its own despite a decade’s worth of training by US military advisors.

Mr D’Amato, who has remained active in Republican Party affairs, appears well-placed to defend Somalia’s interests in the Republican-controlled Congress.

He is also on friendly terms with the White House, having supported Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency.

FIXER
As one measure of Mr D’Amato’s ability to influence power brokers, he was once paid $500,000 for making a telephone call to a New York transportation official that salvaged a real-estate deal for Mr D’Amato’s client, a Manhattan building owner.

He was in the news more recently for having been ordered to leave a commercial airliner that had been delayed for more than six hours for a January flight from Florida to New York.

Mr D’Amato, 80, got into a verbal altercation with the plane’s crew when he encouraged passengers to ignore the pilot’s request for changes in seating assignments prior to take-off.

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