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Somalia gets $1.3b for economy, security

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World leaders have pledged to support Somalia’s new government and its security and economic reforms. However, the government has been tasked with using its support from citizens to deliver on its promises.

The three-day Somalia International Conference in London saw President Mohammed Abdullahi Farmajo’s government get new pledges of more than $1.3 billion to help improve stability in the country, mitigate against the famine that has affected 5.5 million people and free the country from the menace of Al Shabaab.

The United Kingdom has pledged $27 million, which will be spent over the next two years to provide training and mentoring to the country’s army and improving security.

The European Union — Somalia’s biggest donor — pledged that member states will this year invest $1.03 billion, which will bring total support to $4.5 billion till 2020.

This includes support for the African Union Mission for Somalia (Amisom), salaries for police, development aid, and $596 million for humanitarian assistance to tackle the devastating effects of the drought.

Amisom’s departure

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an additional $900 million for the drought-stricken country.

By the time of the conference, the UN had only realised 30 per cent of the $825 million target it proposed in March to mitigate against the effects of the drought.

But world leaders insisted that President Farmajo deliver on his promises and reminded him that Amisom will not be in the country forever — the African peacekeepers will start a drawdown in 2018.

“We are proposing today a new Partnership for Somalia through which President Farmajo will commit to the development of an inclusive and federal democratic state — and the international community will back him with better targeted support for jobs and livelihoods that can drive economic recovery,” said UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

After the first day of the conference on May 11, the delegation from Somalia were engaged in closed-door meetings with various partners to explain how the government is planning to take the country forward given the goodwill it is currently enjoying.

As world leaders emphasised the need for the country’s security forces — the Somali National Army and police — to take over the security of Somalia, President Farmajo asked the UN to lift the arms embargo to allow the country to arm itself with modern weapons to match those deployed by Al Shabaab.

“We are working with our partners and the Security Council to develop a clearly defined roadmap to the full lifting of the arms embargo. This will include the improvements we must make to our weapons management, command and control systems,” said President Farmajo.

Debt relief

The president’s other plea was for debt relief as the country struggles with a $5.3 billion debt. He said Somalia’s meagre revenue can barely cover the budget.

“Access to international financial institutions is restricted due to existing arrears. We have developed a roadmap to clear arrears and normalise relations with institutions like the World Bank and the IMF. This is an area that I will personally follow, to ensure that we are meeting our obligations,” said President Farmajo.

The country’s new Security Pact includes a UK commitment to train Somali forces in Baidoa, the UAE’s developing a state-of-the art training facility, America’s training and equipping of Danab Special Forces and Turkey working to train Somali officers.

Prime Minister May said Somalia must commit itself to a four-year roadmap on reforms that include clear co-operation between Mogadishu and regional states on security, political agreements on power-sharing that leads to a constitutional review, work towards a more fairer justice system, practical steps on how to tackle corruption, and a clear roadmap on how to achieve one-person one-vote in the next elections in 2021.

“In return, the international community will back these reforms with better targeted support such as investment in key areas such as the agriculture, livestock and fisheries sector as well as development finance,” said Ms May.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said Somalia must embark on a process of healing. Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta asked for the deployment of an additional 4,000 troops to help liberate areas still held by Al Shabaab.

Somali News

BREAKING: 2 blasts, gunfire rock Somalia’s capital

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MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — A Somali police official says two car bomb blasts have rocked the capital, Mogadishu, followed by sustained gunfire. Three people have been killed.

Capt. Mohamed Hussein says the first blast, apparently caused by a suicide car bomber, occurred near Somalia’s intelligence headquarters.

The second blast occurred near parliament’s headquarters, where security forces have engaged with gunmen thought to be trying to attack the presidential palace.

The explosions have shattered a months-long period of calm in Mogadishu, which is often the target of attacks by the al-Shabab extremist group.

There is no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday evening’s blasts.

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Crime

Somalia’s first forensic lab targets rape impunity

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AFP — Garowe – The new freezers at Somalia’s only forensic laboratory can store thousands of DNA samples, although for now there are just five.

The big hope is that they could be the start of a revolution in how the troubled Horn of Africa country tackles its widespread sexual violence – provided some daunting hurdles are overcome.

The first sample arrived at the start of the year taken on a cotton swab from the underwear of a woman, a rape victim from the village of Galdogob.

It was wrapped in paper and driven 250km to the Puntland Forensic Centre in Garowe, capital of semi-autonomous Puntland, slipped into a protective glass tube and placed in one of the three ultra-low temperature fridges.

If DNA ID can be teased from the sample, this would be a crucial step in convicting the woman’s rapist.

No longer would it be a case of he-said-she-said, in which the survivor is less often believed than the accused. Two decades of conflict and turmoil have made Somalia a place where lawlessness and sexual violence are rampant.

“Now, people who have been raped hide because they don’t have evidence,” said Abdifatah Abdikadir Ahmed, who heads the Garowe police investigations department.

But with the lab, he said, “it’s a scientific investigation. There are biological acts you can zero in on.”

Challenges

Not yet, however.

Abdirashid Mohamed Shire, who runs the lab, has a team of four technicians ready but is awaiting the arrival of the final pieces of equipment.

Their work to provide the evidence that might convict or exonerate is yet to begin.

And the pressure is on. The freezers mean the DNA samples can be safely stored for years but Somali law allows a rape suspect to be held for a maximum of 60 days. Shire needs the analysis and identification machines urgently so that, as he put it, “justice will be timely served”.

The laboratory, partly funded by Sweden, was launched last year after the Puntland state government enacted a Sexual Offences Act in 2016, which criminalised sexual offences and imposed tough penalties.

But technology alone will not solve Somalia’s many judicial weaknesses.

The DNA sample from Galdogob, for example, was stored in unclear and unrefrigerated conditions for five days before being sent to the lab, meaning a defence counsel could potentially argue the DNA evidence had been tampered with.

Human rights lawyers worry the new lab might backfire for this reason.

“A lot of thought needs to be given to how the chain of custody can be preserved in these kinds of cases,” said Antonia Mulvey of Legal Action Worldwide, a Kenya-based non-profit organisation.

More fundamental still is the failure of Somalia’s police to take sexual assault cases – and their jobs – seriously.

Corruption is rife, with a legal advisor to Puntland’s justice ministry saying officers “meddle” in cases, undermining them for personal gain.

“My concern is that the corrupted system could not make a sure success of the lab,” the advisor said, requesting anonymity to speak candidly. “Investing in the lab is good, but we need to think about the preconditions.”

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) which helped pay for the lab is trying to address this by running training programmes for dozens of the Garowe police on sample collection, gender violence investigations and documentation.

But, the legal advisor cautioned that donors can only do so much.

“The issue is more complicated than training police. It relates to the political commitment of the government. UNFPA can train police but who will pay those you train? Are they given power to do the work?”

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Briefing Room

US military says drone strike in Somalia kills 4 extremists

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VOA — A U.S. drone strike has killed several al-Shabab militants in southern Somalia, officials tell VOA.

Local sources said missiles fired Wednesday targeted a rickshaw carrying five al-Shabab militants near Jamaame, in the southern Lower Juba region.

“I can tell you that the airstrike hit a rickshaw and that five militants were killed. It was carried out by U.S. drone, helping our intelligence forces on the ground,” a Somali government official told VOA Somali on the condition of anonymity.

The attack was confirmed by witnesses and local residents, who also asked for anonymity because they feared militant reprisals.

Somali officials said they were investigating the identity of those targeted. Some sources said two of those in the rickshaw were civilians traveling with three militants.

A statement Thursday from the U.S. Africa Command said the strike was carried out by the U.S. military “in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia.” The statement said the strike killed four terrorists and no civilians.

On Tuesday, local residents in the region reported another airstrike that destroyed an al-Shabab training camp in the nearby town of Jilib. That airstrike, also confirmed by U.S. Africa Command, killed three militants.

The U.S. military has carried out dozens of airstrikes against al-Shabab and Islamic State militants in support of Somalia’s federal government.

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