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Why is Mogadishu still a frequent target for attacks?

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Hamza Mohamed

Last week, the deadliest bomb blast to hit the Somali city of Mogadishu killed more than 350 people and injured around 400 others.

Questions are now been asked as to why, more than 10 years after African Union peacekeepers set foot in the capital and six years after the al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabab was pushed out, attacks still plague the coastal city.

The Somali government blamed the October 14 blast on al-Shabab.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that the truck explosion which struck Zobe intersection – a busy junction lined by shops, offices and homes – had all the hallmarks of the group.

“This is their fingerprints, this is what they have done,” Farmajo said.

Since the start of this year, more than 20 explosions have targeted Mogadishu, killing at least 500 people and injuring more than 630.

Most of the attacks were carried out by al-Shabab, which has lost control of most major towns and cities in the country.

More than 24,000 African troops have been sent to defeat the group. But the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) says they are not at fault for the blasts.

“The security work has been divided. AMISOM is in charge of Villa Somalia [presidential palace] and the airport. Entry and exit points of the city is the work of the Somali security forces and the Mogadishu stabilisation force,” said an AMISOM spokesman.

The Western-backed government, which is struggling to pay its soldiers, says it has done much to improve the security situation in the capital.

“In the last five months, [we] formed the Mogadishu Stabilisation Force which consists of 500 police officers, 500 intelligence officers and 500 military officers. They have stopped many attacks and saved many lives,” Abdirahman Omar Osman, Somalia’s information minister, told Al Jazeera.

“We have defeated them militarily. The terrorists are very desperate and the only option left for them is suicide bombing which we are working hard to stop,” Osman added.

“They target Mogadishu because it is the capital and they want to show the world they are still active. It is an act of desperation,” he added.

But analysts say more needs to be done not just to improve the security situation but bring about lasting peace.

“The current security apparatus is designed to mainly keep the security cash cow intact by creating manageable insecurity. That security apparatus must be overhauled – period,” Abukar Arman, a former Somalia envoy to the US, told Al Jazeera.

Abdullahi Boru, a Horn of Africa security analyst, said Somalia needs to find other solutions in addition to the military option.

“Unpalatable as it is, political negotiations including with al-Shabab since they are at their weakest needs to be seriously considered,” Boru said.

Briefing Room

Saving Somalia Through Debt Relief

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KEVIN WATKINS

Kevin Charles Watkins is the Chief Executive of Save the Children UK

Somalia needs humanitarian aid to stem its short-term suffering, but that cash will not break the country’s deadly cycles of drought, hunger, and poverty. To do that, the IMF must forgive Somalia’s crushing debt, just as it has for nearly every other heavily indebted poor country.

LONDON – Julius Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, once asked his country’s creditors a blunt question: “Must we starve our children to pay our debts?” That was in 1986, before the public campaigns and initiatives that removed much of Africa’s crushing and unpayable debt burden. But Nyerere’s question still hangs like a dark cloud over Somalia.

Over the last year, an unprecedented humanitarian effort has pulled Somalia back from the brink of famine. As the worst drought in living memory destroyed harvests and decimated livestock, almost $1 billion was mobilized in emergency aid for nutrition, health, and clean water provision. That aid saved many lives and prevented a slow-motion replay of the 2011 drought, when delayed international action resulted in nearly 260,000 deaths.

Yet, even after these recent efforts, Somalia’s fate hangs in the balance. Early warning systems are pointing to a prospective famine in 2018. Poor and erratic rains have left 2.5 million people facing an ongoing food crisis; some 400,000 children live with acute malnutrition; food prices are rising; and dry wells have left communities dependent on expensive trucked water.

Humanitarian aid remains essential. Almost half of Somalia’s 14 million people need support, according to UN agencies. But humanitarian aid, which is often volatile and overwhelmingly short-term, will not break the deadly cycles of drought, hunger, and poverty. If Somalia is to develop its health and education systems, economic infrastructure, and the social protection programs needed to build a more resilient future, it needs predictable, long-term development finance.

Debt represents a barrier to that finance. Somalia’s external debt is running at $5 billion. Creditors range from rich countries like the United States, France, and Italy, to regional governments and financial institutions, including the Arab Monetary Fund.

But Somalia’s debt also includes $325 million in arrears owed to the International Monetary Fund. And there’s the rub: countries in arrears to the IMF are ineligible to receive long-term financing from other sources, including the World Bank’s $75 billion concessional International Development Association (IDA) facility.

Much of the country’s current debt dates to the Cold War, when the world’s superpower rivalry played out in the Horn of Africa. Over 90% of Somalia’s debt burden is accounted for by arrears on credit advanced in the early 1980s, well before two-thirds of today’s Somali population was born.

Most of the lending then was directed to President Siad Barre as a reward for his abandonment of the Soviet Union and embrace of the West. Military credits figured prominently: over half of the $973 million in US debt is owed to the Department of Defense. Somalia got state-of-the-art weaponry, liberally financed by loans. The IMF was nudged into guaranteeing repayment through a structural adjustment program.  Repaying the debt today would cost every Somali man, woman, and child $361.

None of this would matter if Somalia had qualified for debt reduction. The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC), created in response to the great debt relief campaigns of the 1990s, has written off around $77 billion in debt for 36 countries. Somalia is one of just three countries that have yet to qualify. The reason: the arrears owed to the IMF. (Eritrea and Sudan have also not qualified, for similar reasons).

The IMF view is that Somalia, like earlier HIPC beneficiaries, should establish a track record of economic reform. This will delay a full debt write-off for up to three years, exclude Somalia from long-term development finance, and reinforce its dependence on emergency aid. Other creditors have endorsed this approach through silent consent.

Somalia deserves better. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s government has demonstrated a commitment to economic reform, improved accountability, and transparency. For two years, it has adhered to an IMF program, achieving targets for improving public finance and the banking sector. More needs to be done, especially in terms of domestic resource mobilization. But this is the first Somali government to provide the international community with a window of opportunity to support recovery. We must capitalize on it.

Waiting three more years as Somalia ticks the IMF’s internal accounting boxes would be a triumph of bureaucratic complacency over human needs. Without international support, Somalia’s government lacks the resources needed to break the deadly cycle of drought, hunger, and poverty.

Somalia’s children need investment in health, nutrition, and schools now, not at some point in the indefinite future. Investing in irrigation and water management would boost productivity. With drought-related livestock and crop losses estimated at around $1.5 billion, government-supported cash payment programs would help aid recovery, strengthen resilience, and build trust.

The benefits of these investments would extend to security. Providing the hope that comes with education, health care, and the prospect of a job is a far more effective weapon than a drone to combat an insurgency that feeds on despair, poverty, joblessness, and the absence of basic services.

There is an alternative to IMF-sponsored inertia on debt relief. The World Bank and major creditors could convene a creditor summit to agree to terms for a prompt debt write-off. More immediately, the World Bank could seek its shareholders’ approval for a special mechanism – a “pre-arrears clearance grant” – that would enable Somalia to receive IDA financing. There is a precedent for this: In 2005, the US championed World Bank financing for Liberia, which at the time had significant IMF debt after emerging from civil war.

The technicalities can be discussed and the complexities resolved. But we should not lose sight of what is at stake. It is indefensible for the IMF and other creditors to obstruct Somalia’s access to financing because of arrears on a debt incurred three decades ago as much through reckless lending as through irresponsible borrowing.

Somalia’s children played no part in creating that debt. They should not have to pay for it with their futures.

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Opinion

United Arab Emirates plays destructive role in Somalia

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SHAKIR HUSAIN

Somalia suffered two big terrorist bombings in October. The carnage caused by the car blasts on Oct. 28 was immense, although nowhere close to the death and destruction following the Oct. 14 attacks that killed 358 people.

Western news reports regularly blame terrorist acts in Somalia on the shadowy al-Shabaab group. Such media coverage ignores the fact that Somalia is a victim of ugly geopolitics that seeks control of the nation, while seeking to annihilate its population through wars, terrorism and man-made disasters.

The United States and its Western crime partners have tried to destroy and subjugate Somalia for many years. Whether the U.S. bombs Somalia in the name of fighting the al-Shabaab terrorist group or Britain tries to cause misery to its people through curbs on remittances, their goals are sinister in seeking extermination of a part of the human race. They are trying to achieve what Europe’s colonialism failed to accomplish.

Countries like the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia also have geopolitical goals in trying to control Somalia. There is an element of power madness in the Saudi bloc these days, as abhorrent as it may seem, but their egos get satisfaction from serving Western bloc leaders be they American, British, French, Israeli or German. They are salivating at the prospect of grabbing more than 3,300 kilometers of coastline, energy and marine resources. They are willing to spill Somali blood as long as there is the slightest chance of even partially achieving their goals. A clear message must be sent to these saboteurs to cease their destructive acts forthwith.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia can be accused of such behavior as they are unable to explain what benefits their military and foreign policy adventures bring to their own populations or to the wider region. Prima facie, their actions advance the West’s colonial and imperial interests. The conduct of these countries is hostile toward Somalia. Their arrogance requires them to try to overpower a country that is struggling economically and politically.

The UAE and those who control its leaders appear to have suddenly woken up to Somalia’s significance as a nation. One of their goals is to destroy Somali-Turkish friendship and alliance. If Somalia was so important to them, they could have used their resources to help it recover from war and famine. But that is not how the UAE operates.

To cause suffering and misery to the maximum number of people is always a deliberate act of any U.S.-led war. American actions in Somalia are in line with this policy. When Saudi Arabia and the UAE use their resources for apparent charitable causes, they do so as per the wishes of their Western masters. It should not surprise anyone that these two countries showed neither Islamic nor regional solidarity with Somalia when it was reeling under severe famine. Islamic concepts of welfare and justice are anathema to them. Joining “jahiliyyah” and Zionist causes has become fashionable in the Gulf region.

The geopolitical calculations of the UAE and Saudi Arabia along with the Western gang seem to have changed following Turkey’s determination to help Somalia. They understand that in Turkey they are dealing with a serious nation that is capable of helping Somalia defeat international terrorism.

Since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Mogadishu in 2011, Turkey has become involved in numerous projects in Somalia to help it become a stable, strong nation in every way. But this relationship works against the interest of those who seek to exploit and rob both Somalia and the wider African region. The international alliance of neocons and Zionists knows how to manipulate Emirati and Saudi officials.

The recent Qatar crisis was another episode in the wider geopolitical game being played in the Middle East and Africa. According to reports, Saudi Arabia and the UAE offered tens of millions of dollars in bribes to get the government in Mogadishu on their side against Qatar. They failed, but that did not discourage these countries from trying to find new ways to put pressure on Somalia.

The UAE exploited instability in parts of Somalia to secure logistics projects. These include a concession from the semi-autonomous region of Puntland for Dubai-based DP World to develop the port of Bosaso. In Somaliland, DP World has a 30-year concession to develop a port at Berbera and plans to develop a so-called economic free zone.

After the terrorist attacks, influential Somali commentators mentioned the UAE as an agent of destruction against Somalia. They pointed out its dubious deals and unwarranted interference in Somali affairs. There have been calls to shut down its diplomatic mission in Somalia.

The UAE and its allies and masters see Turkey as a threat to their hegemonic plans for Africa. The ongoing war in Yemen is part of the same calculations, as the Arabian Peninsula nation is located near key maritime routes. Destabilizing Yemen was a Western plan being carried out through the UAE and Saudi Arabia. It is widely believed that Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, is influencing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to join his dead-end schemes.

Somalia’s enemies would like to find an excuse to launch an open war, but have opted for naked terrorism instead. Another type of terrorism is carried out by the U.S. through drone attacks, ensuring no Somali feels secure from America’s destructive power. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is also seen as playing a role in fomenting trouble in the country instead of carrying out its mandate of peace.

The newly established Turkish military facility will help Somalia develop strong defense capabilities, which in turn would work against Western excuses for creating the kind of military presence they have in neighboring Djibouti. Intelligence reports suggest the intended target of the massive bombing on Oct. 14 was this facility. These reports may or may not be accurate. After all, terrorists and their sponsors would have to take into account inevitable Turkish retaliation.

It must be noted that terrorism directed at Somalia has deliberately targeted civilian facilities. Mosques, government buildings, hotels, restaurants and markets have been bombed to ensure Somalia is kept destabilized for the vultures to invade it at a suitable opportunity. However, it would be a miscalculation on the part of the Western sabotage brigade and their Gulf minions to harbor such hopes. Somalia will grow stronger. Somalia will be victorious. The UAE, which is getting increasingly ambitious in its foreign activities, should try not to bite off more than they can chew.

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The Enemies of Somalia: An Obstacle to Peace and Stability

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Abdihafid Mahamud Jama

Somalia has gone through a tumultuous period from civil war to a complete state failure, impacting on our sovereignty, peace, harmony and dignity as people. Despite many challenges ahead, we are beginning to see a gradual recovery through the help of the international community and our current leaders who are dealing with local and international challenges/threats facing Somalia. To fully comprehend where we are today, you just have to refer back to the political turmoil and traumas Somalia has gone through in the last 27 years. We come so far, but there is much more to do.

The election of Hon Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo brought back a period of optimism, political hopes and sense of dignity for the Somali people. The new government face many challenges internally and externally, and with that, mistakes are inevitable under the pressure of governing. When mistakes are made and governments lose focus, it helps to show a degree of contrition and commitment to reform and delivery. The Government must re-focus and work towards their political promises of security and stability and good governance. This is what the Somali public expects from their Government and I hope our leaders take heed to this much needed and timely advice.

While saying that, what is clear to me is that we have young leaders who have their heart in the right place for Somalia. They champion a much needed care and compassion for the vulnerable in our society and see their role beyond a salvaging mission for Somalia, but the restoration of Somalia’s dignity locally and internationally. For them is about the people of Somalia rather the beaucracy they control. Under enormous political challenges, their central message is about the tomato seller, to the innocent child growing up and learning with an empty stomach. They see the huge potential Somalia has and what that could mean for these vulnerable citizens, if the right political stability and peace is finally achieved in Somalia. This is a sea change for Somalia’s politics, but only if we all help this vision to materialise for our common good and future prospects.

When the political and security challenges are huge, the last thing Somalia needs is the emergence of state sponsored political spoilers and opportunist to derail the journey of the ongoing gradual progress.

These are disgruntled political opportunist who emphatically lost the Presidential elections because they lacked the leadership and ideas to take Somalia Forward. When this happens to politicians, you would think they would go to the political wilderness and re- think or re-focus. Not these politicians – they are a breed of unashamed political spies on hire for other states.

After Alshabaab, our second enemy of Somalia has become some our own politicians who are working to further the strategic interest of other countries rather than their own people. They have allegedly looted (open secret) Somalia to the teeth and are now in the process of dismantling the little progress we are making to further their own pockets again. Among the front runners of these common spoilers or politicians is our former Prime Minister, Senator Omar Abdirashid Sharmake. These are the people who sold our seas to Kenya, prompting a legal maritime dispute between the state of Somalia and Kenya at the ICC in The Hague. Our lawyers and legal teams are has done a sterling work in winning the first phase of the legal battle against the bogus legal claims made by Kenya for their strategic economic interest. It is unfortunate set of circumstances but we really do not need another enemy from abroad when our own serving politicians are publicly stealing our public assets for the interest of other nations.

These same politicians are now in the process of advancing the state of UAE’s interest having been paid large amounts of money to destabilise Somalia, attempting to force our Government’s hand to support UAE and Saudi Arabia alliance in their dispute with Qatar. Given the fact that they have sold Somalia’s seas to (open secret) to Kenya, I am amazed they even have the audacity to face the Somali public. This gives you an idea of their inner character and political convictions. Furthermore, our former Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmake is not your usual politicians. He is the son of the second President of the Somali Republic, the late Abdirshashid Ali Sharmake. To have Omar Abdirashid Sharmake actively working to destabilise Somalia for financial gain is an insult to his father’s legacy. If such individual who has grown up in Villa Somalia in a well established family is behaving like this, what do we expect from other politicians?  The late President must be spinning in his grave.

These politicians have become a taxi on hire and unashamedly see their work as a badge of honour.

Yet, they have been sworn in with the Holy Qur,aan to serve the interest/dignity of their people. In the last Government, they have conspired to sell our seas and are now engaged in selling the dignity and our lands to the UAE/KSA. They have become lobbyist on hire. They have, therefore, become the second enemy of Somalia after Alshabaab. Our people should know the enemy within, especially Omar Abdirashid Sharmake and his cohorts who are proud and open about their mischief against the state and the people of Somalia.

The position taken by the Government in regards to Arab dispute is legally, politically sound, and is in line with international law. It’s a sensible neutral position that invites dialogue and reconciliation – an extension of our Islamic values to promote peace and dialogue between our Muslims brothers/sisters.

If we even entertain the idea of siding with the KSA position, one has to ask what has Saudi Arabia and UAE ever done for Somalia strategically other than watch the demise of the Somali state in 1991 from a far distance. Once you compare that to Ethiopia, which suffered a bloodless coup in 1991, they had none other than James Baker, US Secretary of State in Addis Ababa to defuse military/ political tensions and

help avert full blown civil war between the Ethiopian people.  This was our hour of need and KSA Alliance miserably failed Somalia and left us to our own. To make matters worse, they have even refused our refugees fleeing the civil war while Europe and North America showed compassion and humanitarian leadership, opening their doors for millions of Somali people.

KSA and UAE are our brothers/ sisters – but politically and strategically we can respectively take a different course, taking our political future into our own hands. These countries must also realise the arch of history in Somalia is bending further to patriotism (Wadanimo) and Somalia’s people and it’s politicians will no longer stand for hired  political spoilers who have no credibility among the Somalia public. Such countries will be better advised to negotiate and find a workable settlement with the Somali government rather than resort to destabilisation as means to an end. The international community (if they are serious about Somalia) must also consistently adhere to the principles agreed at the 2012 London Somali Conference led by the United Kingdom Government where  they was a political commitment to sanction political spoilers on Somalia’s politics and stability.  The last thing Somalia needs is a Cold War from other nations who are supposedly part of the international community supporting Somalia’s recovery.

Although there are security challenges in Somalia, the international community in Somalia is not only in Somalia for securing stability and humanitarian aid – they see Somalia as a strategically rich country – containing  one of the last untouched natural resources left in the world. The Somali public must come to realise their turmoil will be over soon if we unite and assist our young government by deterring political spoilers on hire.

To put it simply, Senator Omar Abdrashid Sharmake and his cohorts are the unacceptable face of Somalia’s politics, available and on hire to sell the dignity and the stability of Somalia for a financial gain. Let’s all be mindful and clean the Swamp within our midst.

 

By Abdihafid Mahamud Jama

Email Abdihafid@gmail.com

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