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Somali-American Picked as US Youth Observer to UN

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A Somali-American from Minnesota will speak on behalf of youth at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly in New York and other events.

Munira Khalif, who will be a junior this fall at Harvard University, was chosen from 350 applicants as the 2017-2018 U.S. Youth Observer to the U.N.

“When you are the youngest person in the room, you think, maybe my voice is not important,'” Khalif told VOA. “I think sometimes we limit ourselves, and there’s a challenge within that. But I think [it’s about] really reminding yourself that your voice matters.”

Khalif is the U.N.’s sixth U.S. Youth Observer, a program organized in partnership with the U.S. Department of State and the United Nations Association of the USA.

This is not Khalif’s first time in the spotlight. In high school, she co-founded a nonprofit, “Lighting the Way,” that advocates for girls’ education in East Africa. She was also an adviser to the U.N. Foundation’s Girl Up initiative.

As a senior in high school, Khalif made national headlines when she was accepted to all eight Ivy League schools.

“I was a really active young person, and I continue to be someone who is really engaged and involved. It was a tremendous privilege, but I feel like it wasn’t just for me. I think it was for the whole Somali community, because I really think it takes a village. There were so many people who had supported me along my journey,” she said.

Khalif will serve as Youth Observer for one year, traveling throughout the country and internationally to speak with young people and listen to their concerns.

“Young people like Munira are a driving force for positive change in their communities and the world,” said UNA-USA Executive Director Chris Whatley. “We are delighted for Munira to share her experiences and collaborate with her peers worldwide to bring young people’s perspective[s] to the world’s most significant global forum.”

Khalif said she also wants to encourage young Americans to look beyond their borders and become aware of global issues. “What I find inspiration in is other young people. There are other young people all around the world who are doing really amazing things in shaping our world and trying to create positive change,” she said.

She is majoring in economics and minoring in government at Harvard and believes her generation is eager to make changes.

“We are the largest generation of young people in history. There is really power in our numbers, and, in order to be able to solve these very complex issues at the United Nations, we need a diversity of voices,” she said. “Reminding yourself that my voice is not only powerful but it is important and necessary to make a better world.”

Somali News

BREAKING: Somali general shot dead in capital Mogadishu

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MOGADISHU (Reuters) – A Somali general was shot in the head and killed in the capital Mogadishu on Thursday and a colonel who was his deputy has been arrested for the murder, senior army sources said.

The killing of Marine general Saiid Aden Yusuf in what was apparently an internal dispute is a fresh sign of problems facing the army as it battles an insurgency by Islamist militant group al Shabaab with the help of African Union peacekeepers.

“Our marine general was killed by his deputy at Mogadishu seaport today. The murderer was seized. It was unfortunate and unexpected. An investigation goes on,” marine officer Ahmed Ali told Reuters.

Mogadishu resident Nur Mohamed told Reuters the colonel fired several shots from his pistol and hit the general in the head.

“I was chatting with the general shortly before he was killed …. I heard the gunshots and when I ran to the scene I was shocked to see the general lying on the ground, bleeding,” he said, adding that Yusuf died on the scene from bullet wounds.

Marine officer Ahmed Ali said the colonel was arrested.

Al Shabaab is fighting to oust the government and establish its own rule based on its strict interpretation of Islam’s sharia law.

The group has been pushed out of most of its urban strongholds but it is able to mount deadly attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere.

Somalia has faced violence and lacked a strong central government since President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.

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Humanitarian Watch

UN: More than half of Somalis need emergency aid

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The United Nations says more than half of Somalia’s population is in need of emergency aid due to a major drought and worsening conflict.

Millions have been forced from their homes and hundreds of thousands of children have been left malnourished.

The UN says the situation will worsen unless it receives $1.6bn in extra funds.

Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith reports.

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Briefing Room

Somalia to Probe Evictions of Thousands of Displaced Families

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NAIROBI — The Somali government responded to widespread criticism by aid agencies on Wednesday, promising to investigate reports that thousands of families fleeing drought and conflict were forcefully evicted from more than 20 informal camps.

The United Nations and groups such as the Somalia NGO Consortium say more than 4,000 families, or about 20,000 people, had their homes bulldozed last month inside settlements on the outskirts of the capital of Mogadishu.

The demolitions on private land were unannounced, they said, and pleas by the community — largely women and children — for time to collect their belongings and go safely were not granted.

Some aid workers who witnessed the evictions said uniformed government soldiers were involved in the demolitions.

“Regarding the forced evictions, we are really deeply concerned. We are investigating the number of evictions,” Gamal Hassan, Somalia’s minister for planning, investment and economic development, told participants at a U.N. event.

“We have to make sure we investigate and have to make sure we know exactly what happened. And then we will issue a report and you can take a look at it and see what happened and how it happened,” he said by video conference from Mogadishu.

The impoverished east African nation of more than 12 million people has been witnessing an unprecedented drought, with poor rains for four consecutive seasons.

It has also been mired in conflict since 1991 and its Western-backed government is struggling to assert control over poor, rural areas under the Islamist militant group al Shabab.

The U.N. says drought and violence have forced more than 2 million people to seek refuge elsewhere in the country, often in informal settlements located around small towns and cities.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Wednesday condemned the demolitions, and said the fate of those evicted did not fit with the progress Somalia has made.

“Not only did these people lose their homes, but the basic infrastructure that was provided by humanitarian partners and donors, such as latrines, schools, community centers — has been destroyed,” said Peter De Clercq, head of OCHA in Somalia, at the same event.

“I reiterate my condemnation of this very serious protection violation and call on the national and regional authorities to take necessary steps to protect and assist these people who have suffered so much.”

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