As Somalia continues to suffer from ongoing violence and a possible famine in the near future, the international community is working together to address the country’s poor state of affairs.
On Wednesday the UN Security Council met in New York to discuss the deteriorating security situation in Somalia. Earlier that morning three bomb disposal experts were killed by a car explosive near the capital of Mogadishu. While there was no immediate claim of responsibility, Islamist extremist group al-Shabaab is known to frequently carry out similar attacks in the city.
DW spoke with Laura Hammond from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London about the situation in Somalia and possible outcomes of the meeting in New York.
DW: What outcome can we expect from the Security Council meeting in New York?
Laura Hammond: Well I suspect that the discussion of the Security Council will be to review and lend support to the outcomes of the London Somalia Conference which was held last Thursday, in which all of the major donors to Somalia agreed to a common approach towards their collaboration with Somalia. So it’s important that the Security Council members get behind that communiqué which came out of the meeting and that it bares the strength of the UN commitment in addition to the bilateral commitments that were made by independent states. I wouldn’t expect very much of a new direction coming out of the meeting. More of a strengthening and resolve around the communiqué from the London conference.
Laura Hammond is an expert on issues in the Horn of Africa from SOAS in London
Somalia has been locked in conflict for decades. Several possible solutions have been laid out including the presence of AMISON troops, but the situation keeps bouncing back. Is it time to change approach?
I think there have been quite a lot of successes that Somalia can point to in the last couple of years. There is now a new administration which has not been popularly elected because it’s still not possible to have popular elections, but they have a very strong commitment to tackling corruption and improving governance structures and to take very seriously the current challenges placed by the drought and the impending famine. I think that there are a lot of successes that can be pointed to, but clearly there are also a lot of challenges. The rebel movement al-Shabaab remains in control of many of the rural areas and it’s not been possible to achieve a military success there. One of the main outcomes of the meeting in London was to agree to a common, coordinated approach to a security architecture on Somalia that should really help to strengthen the formation of a strong national military presence in parts of Somalia. So far we’ve had a security situation in which the multiple clans and regional leaders have pledged their individual militias to work in the common interests of the national military, but there hasn’t been a single command structure for a national military. I think that’s what they are trying to work towards now and it would strengthen their hand. I wouldn’t say an entirely new approach is needed, but a serious commitment to making good on the promises made in the last couple of weeks and some patience as well. It takes a long time to turn the situation around in a very durable way.
Can the Somali diaspora play a key role in peace building and reconstruction of their country?
The Somalia diaspora is already very much involved and one of the features of the meetings last week was a very well-attended side-event on the engagement of civil society in Somali reconstruction and stabilization efforts. The diaspora are involved at all levels of government. The president himself has come back from the diaspora in the United States and there are over 100 parliamentarians who are from the diaspora, so on a political level they are there. But also in the private sector are a couple of very important humanitarian efforts to try to raise funds and deliver assistance into areas where international humanitarian organizations have difficulty accessing to try to avert famine. One can see the mark of the diaspora in virtually any aspect of life in Somalia now.
Does the new Somali government have both the regional and international support that it needs to consolidate its position?
I think it does. I think the new president does not only have international support, but more importantly the support of Somalia. People for the most part are very pleased with the outcome of the selection process that has brought the president to power. The donor community is also very encouraged by the turn of events and the political situation in Somalia. I think there’s a lot of good will and optimism to work with. One of the challenges it to maintain that enthusiasm to make sure that it results in the actual delivery of assistance that is pledged. Attacks like the recent one we saw outside Mogadishu can still be expected – al-Shabaab is doing everything it can to discredit the new government and the international community’s efforts to work against it and there will be for the foreseeable future moments of insecurity.
Whereas prompt humanitarian action has kept drought-ridden Somalia from sliding into famine, better security and increased access to remote areas may be needed to bring the country back from the brink. Is this an appropriate approach?
I think that it is. What it will take is a concerted effort and close coordination between those who have access and those who have the technical expertise and the ability to respond to similar kinds of crises. There is a lot more joined-up coordination that needs to take place. Probably capacity building as well on the part of those who are frontline responders who may not have as much experience. The Somali government has made a commitment to opening up the road network as a matter of urgency so that is very important in this context. But ultimately I also think it is going to take some kind of a recognition even on the part of the al-Shabaab controlled areas that there is a greater need for famine relief and prevention which needs to be given priority above all political questions at a time like this.
Interview: Jane Ayeko Kümmeth
Laura Hammond is a Horn of Africa expert from the Department of Development Studies at SOAS
Kansas Trio Convicted in Plot to Bomb Somali Immigrants
WICHITA, Kan. — A federal jury on Wednesday convicted three men of plotting to bomb an apartment complex where Somali immigrants lived and worshiped in Garden City, Kan., giving prosecutors a victory at a time when threats against religious and racial minorities are rising nationally.
“These defendants conspired to build a bomb, blow up a building and murder every single man, woman and child inside,” Tony Mattivi, a federal prosecutor, told jurors during closing statements.
The men, Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Stein, all of whom are white, appeared stoic as the verdicts were read. They face up to life in prison when they are sentenced in June.
The jury of six men and six women deliberated for about seven hours over two days.
Defense lawyers tried to convince jurors that their clients were manipulated by the F.B.I., and had been unfairly targeted for exercising their rights to own guns and speak freely.
“He was a member of a militia. He loved his guns. This was a lifestyle,” Melody Brannon, a lawyer for Mr. Allen, told the mostly white jury. “The government tried to criminalize that lifestyle.”
The trial, which played out over about a month in Wichita, focused on a period before the 2016 presidential election when a paid F.B.I. informant infiltrated a militia group that prosecutors said included the three men. Prosecutors, who built much of their case around secret recordings that the informant made of the men talking, said that they planned to carry out the bombing on Nov. 9 of that year, a day after voters selected a president.
“They wanted to send a message to the people living there that they’re not welcome in Garden City, they’re not welcome in southwest Kansas, they’re not welcome in the United States,” Mr. Mattivi said.
The men, who called themselves “the Crusaders,” were arrested about four weeks before Election Day and charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against rights, which the Justice Department considers a hate crime. Mr. Wright was also charged with lying to the F.B.I. The three men were found guilty on all counts against them.
The trial came amid a national escalation in threats against religious and racial minorities, especially Muslims, according to the F.B.I. and organizations that monitor hate crimes.
“It is now approaching the level of hate violence against the same communities that we saw in the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks,” said Suman Raghunathan, executive director of SAALT: South Asian Americans Leading Together, a national advocacy organization.
Prosecutors portrayed the Kansas defendants as aspiring domestic terrorists who joined a militia and decided to bomb the Somali apartments after considering other attacks — on elected officials, churches that helped refugees and landlords who rented to immigrants.
Defense lawyers, who criticized the F.B.I.’s investigation throughout the trial as government overreach, suggested that their clients had merely engaged in idle talk inspired partly by the 2016 election. Expletive-filled recordings of the men played before the jury contained repugnant, bigoted language, the defense lawyers said, but not evidence of a federal crime.
“It is not morally right to hold such hate, but it is not legally wrong,” said James Pratt, a lawyer for Mr. Stein, who acknowledged that his client referred to Muslims as “cockroaches.” Mr. Stein referred to himself, the recordings showed, as an “Orkin man,” referencing the pest extermination company.
“We all have the right to hate,” Mr. Pratt added.
A bombing never took place, and no one was physically injured in Garden City, a point defense lawyers emphasized to jurors. They said the men lacked the ability or commitment to carry out such an attack, and that the F.B.I.’s paid informant helped steer the plot and suggested targeting the apartments.
Garden City is a racially diverse place about 200 miles west of Wichita with around 27,000 residents. Many Somalis and other immigrants have moved to the area in recent years to work at a nearby meatpacking plant.
The apartment complex that prosecutors say was targeted is a center of Somali life in Garden City. Many refugee families live in units of the complex; others come to pray in a makeshift mosque inside one unit.
Moussa Elbayoumy, who chairs the board of the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the verdict affirmed his faith in the justice system.
Many Muslims he talked to in Garden City had not followed the trial closely, Mr. Elbayoumy said, but had hoped for convictions.
“The instance was troubling, was concerning. People were afraid,” Mr. Elbayoumy said in a phone interview. “But after that, they put this behind them and moved on with their lives.”
What’s triggering tension between Somalia and the UAE? | Inside Story
Somalia has been in conflict for much of the past 25 years. But the horn of Africa nation has been showing signs of recovery.
And that’s provoked interest from many regional countries including the United Arab Emirates.
The Gulf nation has been conducting a military training programme and running a hospital in the capital Mogadishu.
But, the UAE’s government has now abruptly ended its involvement on both those fronts after a series of recent diplomatic disagreements.
So, why are the UAE and other regional countries interested in Somalia?
AMISOM asks for more police officers in Somalia
DAILY MONITOR — KISMAYO- The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has asked partners states to contribute more police officers to expand its operations in the war-torn country.
The call was made on Tuesday by Ms Christine Alalo, the acting AMISOM police commissioner while receiving 145 police officers from Sierra Leone.
The deployment of the force from Sierra Leone brings to 160 the number of police officers from Sierra Leone.
“We expect other police contributing countries to do the same because we are expanding our operations. We are moving away from Mogadishu,” Ms Alalo said.
Apart from Sierra Leone, other police contributing countries in Somalia are; Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia and Ghana.
Early this month, over 500 Ugandan Police Officers sat for interviews that would see successful ones join police operations in Somalia.
Ms Alalo said since police operations will be extended to other federal states and districts, it is inevitable to increase the number of police units.
Between 2015 and 2016, AMISOM trained 600 Somali officers in Jubbaland, but Ms Alalo said that number has to be reinforced.
Meanwhile, the AMISOM Assistant Inspector General of Police, Mustafa Solomon Kambeh, said the police officers would be deployed in Jubbaland and Kismayo.
Mr Kambeh doubles as the Contingent Commander of the Sierra Leonean FPU in Mogadishu urged the forces to stick to the AMISOM mandate of pacifying Somalia and its regional states.
The Formed Police Unit is charged with public order management, protection of facilities and support to police operations that require a concerted response.
The United Nations Security Council Resolution adopted in 2017 approved an increase to a maximum of 1,040 police officers serving under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)
AMISOM is committed to redoubling its efforts to train and recruit more police officers during the transition period as it prepares to hand over security responsibilities to the Somali security forces as stipulated in the Security Council Resolution.