Monday, December 24, 2007

Somali Update: Fresh Fighting Rocks Mogadishu

Fresh fighting rocks Somali capital

Mortar blasts and machine-gun fire have rocked the Somali capital as Ethiopia-backed Somali puppet troops fought with rebels, shattering a brief lull after months of heavy clashes.

Shells crashed into southern and northern Mogadishu on Saturday, including residential areas.

It was not immediately clear whether anyone had been killed.

Rebels have waged an insurgency in Mogadishu since they were defeated by Ethiopian and Somali forces early this year, ending their brief rule in the country's southern and central regions.

The deadly insurgency has forced hundreds of thousands of people to leave Mogadishu in recent months, according to the United Nations, prompting warnings of an unprecedented humanitarian disaster.

Aid groups have said that insecurity is choking off efforts to deliver humanitarian supplies to those affected.

Numerous bids to restore stability to the Horn of Africa nation since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre have failed because of clan warfare and unrest.

Source: Agencies Kavkaz Center
Publication time: 23 December 2007, 08:55
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Somalia: Ten killed in fresh clashes, mayor blames media reports

Sun. December 23, 2007 08:56 am.
By Mohamed Abdi Farah

(SomaliNet) At least ten people have been killed and dozens more were wounded in another wave of clashes between the Ethiopian backed government troops and the insurgents in the Somalia capital Mogadishu overnight, witnesses said.

Most of the victims were confirmed to be civilians who hit by stray round bullets, according to the local residents.

A pregnant woman and her small baby were among the wounded people in the last night’s fighting, source told Somalinet.

The latest violence hit the northern part of the capital where the Islamic militants fired mortars into the positions of the allied troops on the main Industrial Road in Mogadishu.

An exchange of heavy artillery gunfire rattled in the area as the families began to flee their homes.

It is not yet clear the casualty on both warring sides.

Mogadishu’s mayor Mohamed Omar Habeb ‘Mohamed Dhere’ said what happened Saturday night was not a real fighting and caused no casualty on the ground.

The mayor blamed the local media for exaggerating the minor events in the capital as fighting between the government and the insurgents.

Burundi peacekeepers arrive in Somalia

Sun. December 23, 2007 07:38 am.
By Mohamed Abdi Farah

(SomaliNet) Around 100 Burundian soldiers arrived in Somalia on Sunday as part of an African Union peacekeeping force trying to stabilise the war-torn country, an AU official said, AFP reports.

The tiny central African country has pledged to deploy a total of 1,700 soldiers to Somalia to join some 1,600 Ugandan soldiers based in the volatile capital Mogadishu.

"About 100 Burundian soldiers, part of the African peacekeeping mission in Somalia, have arrived in Mogadishu today," said Captain Paddy Ankunda, the spokesman of the AU contingent.

"I believe every boot on the ground will change the situation and we hope other contries contributing solders will take the same path as Burundi and will deploy their forces soon," he told AFP.

The troops arrived hours after overnight fighting between Ethiopia-backed Somali government troops and insurgents left four people dead in the capital.

The pan-African bloc plans to deploy up to 8,000 peacekeepers to the Horn of African nation, torn apart by internecine war for the past 16 years.

West African military powerhouse Nigeria is also to send soldiers in the next two or three months.

Since February some 600,000 civilians have been displaced and thousands of others killed in relentless violence that intensified with the January ouster of an Islamist movement, according to the United Nations.

Numerous bids to restore stability since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991 have failed because of clan warfare and unrest.


Somalia once heaven for journalists, but no more today

Sun. December 23, 2007 07:01 am.
By Mohamed Abdi Farah
Abdiaziz Hassan, Nairobi

Somalia’s internal conflict is distressing journalists to cover Somalia war, that makes the country a scene of unreported world where the tragedy on the ground is concealed by the wrongdoers. Explosions and targeting civilians, including journalists is part of everyday life.

Lost eight journalists, some of them very prominent and respected in Somalia, this year was the deadliest for the Somali people, mainly for journalists.

“All forms of human rights violations occur inside Somalia. Arbitrary arrests, torture, and intimidation to the journalists relating directly to their effort of covering the events in the country is a behavior Somalia’s fighting sides” said the General Secretary of National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), Omar Faruk Osman addressing at the Human Rights day occasion held in Nairobi.

That worsening situation forced a large number of Somali journalists to take exile in eastern African capitals like Kampala and Nairobi. Nearly, twenty of the ejected journalists are in Kenya under financial and unemployment crisis. Most of them, to go back and restart the mission are not viable.

Now, Somalia rarely catches in to the headlines of the international media. The raised danger for journalists means the situation in the country is receiving less intercontinental awareness. This ultimately reflects how dangerous to gather news from Somalia is. Few foreign correspondents venture in---it is too difficult for them to work in Somalia permanently and local journalists are beleaguered by the authorities.

Currently, Gwen Le Gouil, a French journalist who took a risk trip from Europe to find stories in this war-torn Horn of Africa nation is in custody for ransom worth $80,000 by a militia in Somalia’s north eastern regions.

The president of Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland, Mohamed “Adde” Muse claimed the journalist, Gwen Le Gouil, was kidnapped by a group of human traffickers he had links with, which seems averting the eyes of the public and the international community from the regions’ security failure of protecting journalists and aid workers serving the suffering people.

In contradiction to the president’s comments on Gewen’s case, another official, Farah Abdi, the deputy security minister says Gewin will be tried for entering the country without visa.

Officials of Somalia’s U.S backed and Ethiopian installed government show reckless behavior in dealing with media, imposing restrictions on coverage and denying access from journalists to certain information. Also, licensing and hosting international media organizations like Aljazeera and CNN is not essential for the violators.

Once, Somalia was heaven for journalists but that is no more today. The country, this year has ranked the second deadliest place for journalists after Iraq.

Yet there may be hope for this failed nation that is the international community needs to reduce their difference and come up with common stance on Somalia’s political crisis and the Somalis to respect freedom of expression granted by the international and national laws.

Somalia: Life in a failed state

Aid workers say they are struggling to provide help for the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced arriving at camps on the outskirts of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu. Sick, weak and severely malnourished, six-month-old Abdirahman Abdullahi is hovering between life and death. His mother, Fatuma, looks on as he receives treatment at a health centre run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) outside Mogadishu. She knows that she may have brought her son to hospital too late for him to be effectively treated.

"I had nowhere to go. The fighting was going on where I live daily," she said. "I had also no one to leave my eight other children with. I just got the opportunity to seek help." His condition illustrates the humanitarian crisis engulfing Somalia amid fierce fighting between government soldiers and opposition Islamic Courts' Union fighters. In just the latest instance, residents of northern Mogadishu said on Tuesday that clashes killed at least six people, including three family members.

Medical crisis

The sick come in all sizes to the MSF clinic. Doctors show a girl who is traumatised. She has no physical pain but is severely depressed by what is going on around her. It is a condition shared by many.

There are few medical experts in Somalia today, but those in the country are shocked by the high number of fatalities among the displaced. "Currently we see an increase in the number of watery diarrhoea cases. We see an increase in the mortality rate. There are a lot of people dying, which is not acceptable," Dr Gustavo Fernandez, a medic from MSF, said.

At a camp for displaced people just outside Mogadishu, thousands of people live in tiny, dirty shelters. These people fled death in the city but death continues to stalk them even here. They have little access to food, water, sanitation and proper medical care. Almost all those in this camp, as well as other camps in Mogadishu, survive on food handouts from aid agencies.

But due to the simmering conflict and security problems, aid shipments to displaced people are few and far between. Will to live Fatuma Maalim's story is shocking but not out of the ordinary. She lost her husband and five children a few months ago when a missile hit their home.

She now lives in the camp with her only surviving daughter, who lost an eye and a leg in the attack. She looks after two children who were abandoned by a neighbour who fled the fighting. "I still see images of the intestines of my children right before me. I can't go back to Mogadishu, I have no home there. How can I go back to a place without peace?" Maalim said. Desolate and displaced they may be, but these people have a strong will to live. In one camp, a market allows goods to be traded.

Yet every little flare-up of violence in Mogadishu swell the numbers of people in the camps, and new buildings spring up to house them.

For many ordinary people in Mogadishu, these camps, for now, are home.

Source: Al Jazeera Kavkaz Center
Publication time: 20 December 2007, 16:13
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Copyright 2001-2007

We must sort out Somalia conflict or withdraw —UN envoy

Special Correspondent

The top United Nations envoy to Somalia has urged the international community to draw up a road map towards lasting peace and stability in the country, Somalia has not had a functioning national government since 1991.

“The situation in Somalia is dangerous and becoming more so each day,” Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah special representative of the Secretary-General told the UN Security Council last week.

His briefing follows recent meetings with President Yusuf Abdullahi, the newly appointed Prime Minister of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Nur Hassan Hussein Adde and members of Somalia’s opposition.

The call however comes just a month after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon ruled out deploying peacekeepers to Somalia. Only two out of the required eight battalions are deployed in Somalia as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).

Uganda has sent 1,600 soldiers to Somalia as part of the planned 8,000-strong AU peacekeeping mission. Ghana, Nigeria and Burundi were among the African countries that pledged to send peacekeeping troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia, but have so far not delivered on their promises.

In the absence of a strong peace-enforcement contingent, Somalia remains a lawless state and in dire humanitarian situation.

Despite 13 peace agreements over the past 17 years, the complexity of the Somali conflict continues to increase and innocent civilians continue to die, Mr Ould-Abdallah said. The humanitarian bodies points that a recent upsurge in violence in Mogadishu has forced the internal displacement of about one million people and caused some three million to flee the country as refugees.

While immediate and effective political and security initiatives of by United Nations would not be “a magic recipe for peace”, they could help Somalia end its intractable 17-year-old conflict, said Mr Ould-Abdallah.

The UN Special Representative noted there is little reason to believe the situation will change if the international community continues with its current course of action, stating that there are “serious consequences for Somalia, the region and probably the world if the conflict is not addressed and a definitive, lasting solution agreed on.”

In his presentation to the Council, Mr Ould-Abdallah put forward three possible approaches for the Council’s consideration, the first of which is continuing with the status quo, or “business as usual.” In that context, he pointed out that efforts exerted over the past 17 years have failed to restore stability and that national reconciliation and peace remain elusive.

“The international community’s “wait and see” attitude will only postpone the day of reckoning and will not provide meaningful progress towards lasting peace,” Mr Ould-Abdallah cautioned.

The second option would be an organised withdrawal of the international community from Somalia, “in effect accepting its inability to protect the population or to bring about a lasting peace,” he said, noting that a withdrawal would provide “an alternative to the costly, continued engagement in Somalia” that has yet to bear fruit.

“However, the country would be crippled still further by the withdrawal as more groups or clans would appear and the resulting fighting could create a humanitarian catastrophe,” Mr Ould-Abdallah warned, adding that the withdrawal could create “an even more serious power vacuum.”

The Special Representative said a third possible solution would be immediate and effective action on the political and security fronts, with the objective of forming a government that can support itself and administer the country effectively. “This is not a magic recipe for peace but could help Somalia move in the right direction.”

On the political front, he suggested that President Abdullahi’s transitional government take steps to strengthen its ranks and reach out to the opposition. He also cited the need for meetings between the Transitional Federal Government and the opposition to prepare the ground for further higher level meetings, emphasising that, “The opposition should be part of the political process and assume its responsibilities.”

Along with the political action, Mr Ould-Abdallah called for strengthening the Amisom contigent deployed in the country, including the deployment of “an extra capacity” to stabilise the East African nation.

The UN official stressed that the time has come for the international community to commit itself to a clear course of action, noting that if the current situation continues, the consequences will be “catastrophic” for peace in the region, for the credibility of the UN and, most of all, for the Somalis themselves.

Expressing his support for the third – and what he believed to be the only – option, Somalia’s representative urged the Council to quickly devise a plan to move ahead in the political and security spheres, noting that many Somalis have wondered why it is so easy for the 15-member body to move speedily in other parts of the world where there is conflict.

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