Monday, June 16, 2008

Somali News Bulletin: IGAD Calls for UN Force; Fighting Rages in Mogadishu; French Firm Signs Deal to Patrol Coast, etc.

East Africa: Six nations call for UN peacekeeping force in Somalia

Mon. June 16, 2008 06:08 am.
By Bonny Apunyu

(SomaliNet) In a bid to end factional fighting that has plagued Somalia since 1991, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a group of six East African countries, has called for the United Nations to send a peacekeeping force to the Horn of Africa nation.

In December 2006 Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia, ousting an Islamist alliance from the capital, Mogadishu, and installing a transitional federal government. That government has struggled to control parts of the capital because of an insurgency by Islamist and clan-based militias. African Union troops are already in the country.

�The prevailing security situation in Somalia is worrying and greatly threatens regional peace and stability,'' Mwai Kibaki, Kenya's president, said late yesterday at a summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The summit included leaders from Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Djibouti and Somalia.

Somalia hasn't had a functioning central administration since the 1991 removal of former dictator Mohammed Siad Barre.

Bordered by Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti the country has been the target of air-strikes by the U.S. this year and last year against suspected al-Qaeda members.

The East African group, known as Igad, wants the UN to take control of and expand the 2,600-member African Union peacekeeping force, Kibaki said, adding that UN troops should be deployed in the next 120 days. The troops would help support a June 9 peace agreement between Somalia's transitional government and an opposition group.

The government and the opposition Alliance for the Re- liberation of Somalia agreed to halt attacks within 30 days and for Ethiopian troops to withdraw from the country within four months. The Al-Shabaab Islamist group said on June 13 that it won't observe the agreement.

Igad also condemned Eritrea for a cross-border raid against Djibouti last week that left nine Djiboutian soldiers dead.

Eritrea, which suspended its membership in Igad in April last year, didn't attend the meeting.

Kenyan Leader blames IGAD of slowing on Somalia

Submitted by wararka on Mon, 06/16/2008 - 11:22.

Addis Ababa, 16 June 2008-- Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki on Sunday said that the prevailing security situation in Somalia is worrying and greatly endangers regional peace, security and stability, noting that violence continues, and there is an increase in attacks targeting foreign nationals, local and international non-governmental organizations, the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia and members of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia.

He accused IGAD regional organization of not doing enough on the security of Somalia.

The President said that the continuing insurgency has embraced violence as a means of unseating the Transitional Federal Government and scaring away the African Union peacekeeping mission.

“As a region, we cannot accept those who use violence - pirates and kidnap syndicates to continue killing and kidnapping people”, said Kibaki while addressing the 12th ordinary Assembly of the Inter-government Development Authority on Development (IGAD) heads of state and government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The president urged the United Nations Security Council to step up its involvement in the Somali Peace Process until the situation fully stabilizes.

“In particular, it is critical that the United Nations Security Council urgently considers transforming the (African Union Mission to Somalia) AMISOM into a United Nations Peacekeeping Mission”, said the President in a Presidential statement issued to the press in Nairobi on Saturday evening.

The President noted that the current number of 2,613 troop’s falls far below the 8,000 strong force needed to effectively enforce peace in Somalia.

“While appreciating the pledges made by African countries to deploy troops to AMISOM, and in light of the prevailing security challenges in Somalia,

“I am urging Benin, Ghana and Nigeria to deploy their troops without further delay”, noted the Kenyan leader who now is the outgoing chairman of IGAD.

Fighting rages in Mogadishu

Submitted by wararka on Sun, 06/15/2008 - 19:34.

MOGADISHU, June 15 ( – Armed Islamic courts fighters attacked the Ethiopian troops based at ex-pasta industry where an hour long battle happened later on sunday shortly after mortar attacks were aimed at Ethiopian troops based at Heila Barise Ethiopian military camp close to the Pasta factory in Mogadishu according to the residents.

"They are fighting with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machineguns," said resident Hassan Nor who was trapped by the gunfire at a nearby house.

Another eyewitness said the fighting had spread to the northern part of the city. "There is now intense fighting going on around Heile Barise [north Mogadishu]."

He said many families were trying to get out of the conflict zone. "It is a very confused situation. People are wandering from one area to another hoping that it would be safer."

It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties in the earlier mortar strikes on Ethiopian troop’s army base, where more than a dozen explosions could be heard.

The islamists have vowed to attack any foreign troops and the interim government following Ethiopian allied government troops ousted their Islamic rule.

They have mounted almost daily attacks since the government took over the capital in late December.

French Firm Secopex Signs Deal To Combat Somali Pirates

Submitted by wararka on Sun, 06/15/2008 - 11:01.

A private French military firm has signed a contract with Somali authorities to boost security off the country's coast, plagued by high- profile piracy in recent years, the chief executive said Saturday.

Pierre Marziali, CEO of the firm Secopex, said the deal would "strengthen maritime business" off Somalia.

The deal, estimated to be worth between 50 million to 100 million euros annually for the next three years, comes in the wake of the hostage-taking by Somali pirates of a French luxury yacht, the Ponant, in April.

After a week-long stand off, all 30 crew members were released unharmed, but French special forces swooped on the fleeing pirates, capturing six and retrieving some of the ransom money paid.

"Our core business is primarily in the U.S.," Marziali told AFP, before adding that the "Ponant affect played a part" in signing the deal with the Somali authorities.

According to Marziali, the contract amount will depend on an audit of existing facilities in Somalia, and will be to set up a "unified coast guard, creating a comprehensive coast guard information system" and form a special bodyguard for Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed.

"These measures mean we can offer a concrete response to any armed attack," he said, adding that any pirate attack would be met with "a return of fire."

"The economic facet of this contract is also important for Somalia, victim not just of pirates but also the victim of huge pillaging of its natural fish stocks off its coastline," the Secopex boss added.

His firm was capable of mobilizing up to 2,000 people from around 40 trades, including divers, translators, pilots and nurses, he said.

Secopex, founded in 2003, is involved in providing private security, bodyguards, and security advice and auditing.

The branch based in Carcassonne, southern France, specializes in private military services to sovereign states.

Clashes Erupt in Kismayo

Submitted by wararka on Sun, 06/15/2008 - 07:40.

One person has been killed while another one was injured following the armed groups assault on a military camp in the southern port town of Kismayu on Saturday night, according to the residents in the area.

The assailants were reported to have randomly opened fire on the military camp that is located in the vicinity of ex-meat industry in Farjano town north of the town.

The killed/injured persons were soldiers guarding at a site that was shelling out the earnings of the Kismayu town’s security forces.

Latest reports from the town say that the injured person died in a where hospital he was admitted.

The assailants have escaped from the scene after the episode, but some reports say that they came into a village in the town where other armed militias surrounded them.

Residents have expressed fear a fresh outbreak of fighting might happen in the town if the two sides clash.

No comments could be gathered from the regional administration of the town vis-à-vis this incident.

It is situated 328 miles (528 km) southwest of Mogadishu, near the mouth of the Jubba River, where that river flows into the Indian Ocean.

The city is divided into five districts, or districts, namely Farjano, Faanole, Sinay, Shaqalaha and Alanleey. Because the city started with Alenley, it is the oldest of all four districts.

After the former Somali President Siad Barre was overthrown, Kismayu became a city in constant turmoil, fought over by warring clans vying for control of the area. There was prolonged fighting for control of the city among various groups.

Ethiopian troops withdraw from central Somali town, soldiers march onto Mogadishu Street

Submitted by wararka on Sat, 06/14/2008 - 08:53.

The Ethiopian troops in Beledweyne town have pulled out from there on this last past Friday night, according to the residents.

Beledweye residents have waken up with the Ethiopian troop’s army bases in the town vacant. Later the soldiers went towards Janta Kundishe, a hilly area where the Ethiopian troops have withdrawn to. This town in Ethiopia is where armed Alshabab fighters have attacked with mortars.

Some residents told Shabelle that the vacated soldiers had been forcibly driven out. They left using civilian vehicles loaded with their military ammunitions.

Some where else armed Ethiopian soldiers have deployed into Warshadaha Main road in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Saturday morning, eyewitnesses said.

The Ethiopian troops have as well stopped up civilian and vehicle’s activities of the street.

It’s yet unknown the motive behind the soldier’s operations, also no house to house operations were reported.

The vacated Ethiopian troops have come under heavy attacks from armed islamist fighters in the town. Later they escorted the regional administration in the region to maintain their security against the Islamic fighters. Subsequent to the armed Islamic court’s fighters having been earlier driven out from the town, the former replaced administration of the region led by Yusuf Ahmed Hagar Aka Dabaged, was replaced by the Somali government.

Ethiopia accused of war crimes to quell insurgency

Xan Rice, east Africa correspondent,
Thursday June 12 2008 Article history

Satellite images of are available of Dameerey village before and after it was burnt

Ethiopia's government has committed extensive war crimes and crimes against humanity during a brutal counterinsurgency campaign in the remote Ogaden region, a report says today.

Human Rights Watch accuses the Ethiopian military of extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, forcibly displacing thousands of civilians and using food as a weapon of war in its attempts over the past year to defeat the Ogaden National Liberation Front, which claims to seek self-determination for the eastern region.

Satellite images published in the 130-page report show how villages have been burnt down to deny the rebels a support base - a tactic more often associated with the Darfur region of neighbouring Sudan.

The watchdog accuses the US, UK and other EU countries, who give Ethiopia £1bn a year in aid, of ignoring the abuses, thereby increasing the risk of further "devastation, famine and impoverishment in a region that already knows these trends too well".

"We don't like to rank abuses in different parts of the world, but what is happening in the Ogaden is up there with the worst," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "We are talking about village elders being strangled, and women raped until the point of unconsciousness. And it is being done with complete impunity, and with a blind eye from the international community."

A small-scale rebellion in the Ogaden region, populated mainly by ethnic Somalis, had been simmering for decades before the ONLF attacked an oil installation in April last year. More than 70 Chinese and Ethiopian workers were killed.

The government responded with a massive military crackdown. Civilians in the region were forced to join local militias to help fight the ONLF. While denying that any abuses were taking place - a stance Prime Minister Meles Zenawi still maintains - several aid groups were expelled, including the International Committee for the Red Cross. Journalists were denied permission to visit the five main conflict areas - Fiiq, Wardheer, Dhagahbur, Gode and Korahe.

Human Rights Watch researchers were not allowed in the Ogaden region, but conducted more than 100 interviews over several months with victims or witnesses from the Ogaden who had fled to Somalia or Kenya.

The worst of the abuses appear to have taken place between June and September last year, although cases of arbitrary detention and severe restrictions on trade and movement are ongoing.

Civilians were given between two and seven days' notice to leave small villages and settlements for designated towns. "To secure compliance with the evacuation orders, the Ethiopian army repeatedly implemented a phased system of terror involving the confiscation and killing of livestock, public executions, and the destruction of villages by burning," according to the report, entitled Collective Punishment.

Human Rights Watch says it received accounts of 87 villages or nomadic settlements burnt or forcibly evacuated in the year to August 2007, but believes the real number is far higher. Before-and-after satellite photos show four villages - Dameerey, Laasoole, Qamuude and Labiga - almost destroyed by fire.

Researchers also documented the execution of more than 150 individuals, many of them in "demonstration killings", as well as multiple reports of rape of women who had been detained at military barracks or had been found looking for firewood or food in "closed" zones.

A 22-year-old female refugee who escaped to Kenya told what had happened to her and other women detained near a nomadic settlement outside Shilabo town by an army patrol.

"They beat me very hard until I fell to the ground. This time while lying on the ground I was raped. I don't know how many men raped me. Other women were raped too," she said.

The ONLF, which claimed this week to have launched a major military offensive against government forces, is also accused in the report of "serious violations of international law", including the indiscriminate use of landmines and execution of suspect government collaborators.

Human Rights Watch criticises the UK, which gives £130m in aid annually to Ethiopia, for its muted response over the Ogaden conflict, noting that only one paragraph in the latest Foreign & Commonwealth Office human rights report dealt with the crisis, and that it singled out abuses by "terrorist groups operating in this region".

The most severe criticism is reserved for the US, which is the biggest donor and regards Ethiopia as a key ally in the "war on terror". Having backed Ethiopia's incursion into neighbouring Somalia, which the US regards as a potential terrorist haven, Washington has "minimised and possibly actively ignored internal concerns and reporting on the situation" in the Ogaden.

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