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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

Somalia’s budget meets IMF terms, official says

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REUTERS — The budget approved by Somalia’s parliament this week is in line with fiscal reforms the government committed to when it entered an International Monetary Fund programme in May, an IMF official told Reuters.

Somalia is now on its second 12-month IMF staff-monitored programme after decades of war and turmoil, and adherence to the IMF’s fiscal framework opens the door for grants and concessional funding from international financial institutions.

The $274 million budget approved on Wednesday includes measures expected to boost domestic revenue collection by $20-$25 million.

They include the introduction of sales and corporate income taxes for telecommunications and the removal of income tax exemption for lawmakers, said Mohammed Elhage, who leads the IMF’s Somalia work.

“These are very important signals.”

He said that during a September visit, the IMF had been disappointed by progress by the government, which took office after elections in February.

“From September until now, we see a strong commitment to reform. The authorities are more engaged on what needs to be done.”

The budget sees the state collecting about $156 million in domestic revenue and about $118 million in grants.

The Horn of Africa nation is recovering from decades of war, and al Shabaab Islamist militants remain a threat.

The new budget is still dwarfed by contributions from donors, who last year spent about $1.5 billion on food aid, health and sanitation.

Observers say putting a proper budget into place and having parliament pass it is an important step.

“If the IMF gives the thumbs-up, that tells you that the government is starting to deliver on revenue collection,” said a Western diplomat. “If they can get debt relief, that is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”

Credit from the IMF would offer the central government leverage over the federal member states, the diplomat added.

The states are at odds with Mogadishu over a range of issues, including the crisis between Qatar and other Gulf states.

Somalia’s external debt is about $5.2 billion, according to the IMF. It has not made a service or amortisation payment since civil war broke out more than 25 years ago.

The IMF said this week that economic growth is set to quicken to 2.5 percent in 2018 from 1.8 percent this year, when drought and security issues kept it below the IMF’s forecast of 2.5 percent.

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Briefing Room

US orders new probe on alleged massacre in Somalia

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DAILY NATION — The head of the US Africa Command on Thursday ordered a new investigation of claims that US troops massacred 10 civilians in an August raid on a farm in central Somalia.

The move by Africom Commander Gen Thomas Waldhauser follows media reports that children were among those killed in an attack based on faulty intelligence.

“Gen Waldhauser referred the matter to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to ensure a full exploration of the facts given the gravity of the allegations,” Africom said in a statement.

It added that “Africom takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and will leverage the expertise of appropriate organisations to ensure such allegations are fully and impartially investigated.”

Africom had said soon after the August 25 raid that all the dead were “armed enemy combatants.”

A pair of recent reports in the Daily Beast, a New York-based online news site, cited accounts by eyewitnesses and Somali officials of unprovoked killings of farmers in the US raid carried out in conjunction with Somali soldiers.

“These local farmers were attacked by foreign troops while looking after their crops,” Ali Nur Mohamed, deputy governor of the Lower Shabelle region where the attack occurred, had earlier told reporters in Mogadishu.

“The troops could have arrested them because they were unarmed but instead shot them one by one mercilessly,” Mr Mohamed added as 10 corpses were displayed in the Somali capital soon after the raid.

Africom’s acknowledgment that further investigation is warranted comes at a time of growing and shifting US involvement in the war against Al-Shabaab.

STRIKES

Defence Department officials have presented President Trump with a plan for less restrictive US military operations in Somalia during the next two years, the New York Times reported on December 10.

The proposed initiative would give greater discretion to US field commanders in launching strikes and rescind the State Department’s ability to pause offensive military operations in response to perceived problems, the Times said.

US forces have carried out about 30 airstrikes so far this year in Somalia — twice as many as in 2016. More than 500 US soldiers have also been dispatched to Somalia to assist in the fight against Shabaab.

Conversely, Washington is simultaneously suspending food and fuel payments to most units of the Somalia National Army (SNA) due to concerns over rampant corruption, Reuters reported on Thursday.

Only those SNA units mentored by US instructors will continue to receive the stipends, the report said.

“Documents sent from the US Mission to Somalia to the Somali government show US officials are increasingly frustrated that the military is unable to account for its aid,” Reuters said.

“The documents paint a stark picture of a military hollowed out by corruption, unable to feed, pay or arm its soldiers — despite hundreds of millions of dollars of support.”

SOLDIERS

A team of US and Somali officials who visited nine SNA bases earlier this year reported that expected consignments of food aid could not be found, Reuters revealed. The best-staffed base visited by the team had 160 SNA soldiers present out of a total officially listed at 550. Only 60 of the soldiers had weapons, Reuters said.

“The SNA is a fragile force with extremely weak command and control,” said an earlier leaked assessment by the African Union, United Nations and Somali government. “They are incapable of conducting effective operations or sustaining themselves.”

Kenyan forces have also been cited for allegedly failing to carry out assigned duties in Somalia.

A report last month by UN monitors charged that Kenyan troops operating under African Union command have failed to assist authorities in blocking illicit charcoal exports that are said to earn al-Shabaab at least $10 million a year.

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Briefing Room

Somalia Inaugurated a President, Dealt With Terrorism & Reeled From Drought in 2017

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In 2017, Somalia elected a new president as it battled severe drought and a resurgent al-Shabab. In October, the worst terror attack in the country’s history killed more than 500 people. Meanwhile, the U.S. military is ramping up its military operations as the African Union draws down its 10-year-old peacekeeping mission. From Nairobi, Jill Craig has more.

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