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The Fact of the Matter: Al-Shabaab is Not Mining Uranium in Somalia to Sell to Iran

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By Cindy Vestergaard

The Common Misconception

Militants are strip mining uranium deposits in Somalia to sell to Iran.

Fox News: “Al Qaeda affiliate mining uranium to send to Iran, Somali official warns US ambassador.”
VOA: “Somalia Seeks US Help, Says Militants Plot to Supply Uranium to Iran…the letter might be intended to draw additional military support from Washington more than anything else.”

The Fact of the Matter

A letter sent by Somalia’s Foreign Minister Yusuf Garaad to the U.S. Ambassador of Somalia, Stephen Schwartz, on August 11 overstates the risk of nuclear proliferation as an attempt to bring the United States into what is a decades-long protracted, factional conflict further complicated by high food insecurity, terrorism and no functioning central government.

Additional Background

There are no operating uranium mines in Somalia, nor any plans to construct one. The country’s known reserves are small and highly expensive to extract[1] with data largely based on geological mapping efforts done in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, mining activities in Somalia are described as small-scale and artisanal, mainly gemstones and salt production in Somaliland,[2] a self-declared independent (but not internationally recognized) region of Somalia.

Any development of the minerals sector is complicated by Somalia’s grim security environment. Twenty-six years of war, famine, foreign intervention, and terrorism have left Somalia’s 12 million inhabitants hungry, acutely malnourished, and displaced with most of the population (73%) living on less than US$2 per day. Mogadishu and other towns are now under government control, but the situation is far too divided and violent for democratic elections — the last were held in 1969. Somalia is Africa’s most failed state[3] and has been called “the worst place in the world.”[4]

The letter’s claim that Al-Shabaab, an Islamist militant group allied to al-Qaeda, is “strip mining triuranium octoxide” from “captured critical surface exposed uranium deposits in the Galmudug region” would suppose first that Al-Shabaab has an interest in excavating the land for uranium and secondly has the large industrial equipment, dump trucks, solvents and know-how to break and crush ore then extract and separate out uranium, and process it into a concentrate form for transport. No extremist group is known to have the resources for a mining operation, even if taking over an-already operational mine, nor would such an operation go unnoticed by intelligence agencies.

Lastly, the letter’s claim that Iran is the destination is a gross distortion even if al-Shabaab had the ability to mine uranium. The United Nations Security Council would know if uranium concentrates were being transferred to Iran. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached by Iran and six other powers (the United States, China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom) plus the European Union in July 2015 monitors all transfers, trade and/or domestic production of uranium ore concentrates. Moreover, if Iran wanted to buy uranium it can do so openly through a ‘procurement channel’established by the JCPOA and endorsed by United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) for States wanting to transfer nuclear or dual-use goods, technology or related services to Iran. All such activities are to be approved by the Security Council, including any acquisitions by Iran of an interest in a commercial activity in another State involving uranium mining or production of nuclear materials.

If the argument has an oddly familiar ring, it is because uranium — or rather the fear of it — was a key part of the justification by the George W. Bush Administration (and by U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair) for invading Iraq in 2003. The claim was discredited and eventually retracted by the White House four months after the United States had begun military operations in Baghdad.

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Cindy Vestergaard is a Senior Associate with the Nuclear Safeguards program at the Stimson Center.


[1] Uranium recoverable at a cost less than USD 260/kgU. See: OECD-IAEA Red Book, : http://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/pubs/2016/7301-uranium-2016.pdf

[4] “The Worst Place in the World: See What Life is Like in Somalia,” Business Insider, http://www.businessinsider.com/somalia-is-the-most-failed-state-on-earth-2013-7?r=US&IR=T&IR=T

Somali News

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince meets Somali President

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ABU DHABI: His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, received on Monday at Al Shai Palace, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who is currently on a visit to the UAE.

Sheikh Mohamed welcomed the Somali President and his accompanying delegation and discussed fraternal relations and ways to enhance them in the best interest of the two fraternal countries.

Sheikh Mohamed and the President of Somalia reviewed issues of joint interest, especially development issues, development, humanitarian and charitable projects , and reconstruction projects implemented by the UAE to carry out the directives of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to support the fraternal Somali people.

They discussed cooperation and coordinating efforts to fight terrorism, violence, armed groups and joint work to preserve security and stability in the Somali territories.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Mohamed was briefed by the Somali President on the latest developments in Somalia, the government’s efforts to implement development programmes and efforts in combating terrorism, extremism, violence, terrorist groups and terrorist organisations.

While speaking with the Somali President, Sheikh Mohamed emphasised that the UAE continues its approach aimed at supporting the Somali people to build its national institutions and preserve its security and stability. Sheikh Mohamed wished progress and development, cooperation and solidarity for the people of Somalia to continue building and reconstruction as well as achieve aspirations, security and stability.

The Somali President extended thanks and appreciation to the UAE stances and continued support for Somalia, which notably contributed to restoring normalcy, stability and development to life of the Somalis in a number of areas.

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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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