22/05/08 (B448) All Africa avec Garowe online : Somaliland : trois partis politiques s’accordent sur la date des élections locales et présidentielles – Somalia: Elections Timetable Consensus Reached in Somaliland (En Anglais – Info lecteur)

Three political parties in Somalia’s breakaway republic of Somaliland have reached a consensus on the dates of local and presidential elections, potentially breaking weeks of political deadlock caused by President Dahir Riyale’s one-year term extension.

Representatives from the three political parties – the ruling UDUB party, and the opposition Kulmiye and UCID – held private discussions Tuesday mediated by a four-member committee from the Somaliland Election Commission.

The local council elections will be held on December 15, 2008, with Somaliland’s presidential elections scheduled for March 15, 2008, according to a high-ranking opposition official who participated in the talks.

Muse Bihi, deputy chairman of the Kulmiye party, told local media that the Election Commission and delegates from the three political parties had signed the preliminary accord.

But the opposition official indicated that several factors have to first be ironed out with Riyale’s government, including a guarantee that the elections be held on time as approved by the Election Commission.

The three parties and the Commission formally agreed to introduce a motion for debate in Somaliland’s two houses of parliament, requesting the removal of a key elections law clause demanding that the local council and presidential elections be held six months apart.

The opposition parties are still opposed to Mr. Riyale’s one-year term extension, which was approved in April by the House of Guurti, the upper house of parliament, Mr. Bihi said.

But he stated that it is « illogical » to have a « vacant seat » at the presidential seat of power in Hargeisa, the separatist region’s capital city.

Somaliland, in northwestern Somalia, has functioned as an independent government since the 1990s as the southern regions were devastated by conflict among armed clans and foreign military interventions.

The region has not been recognized internationally to date.

18/05/08 (B448) ALL AFRICA / UN HCR, l’agence pour les réfugiés des Nations Unies vient en aide à 40.000 réfugiés somaliens qui ont fui la capitale. – Somalia: UN Refugee Agency Provides Aid to More Than 40,000 Who Fled Capital (En Anglais – Info lecteur)

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has provided aid to more than 40,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Somalia who live in precarious conditions in dozens of makeshift settlements west of the capital, Mogadishu.

UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters today that the agency completed the distribution of aid this week to IDPs living along a 30-kilometre stretch of road between Mogadishu and the town of Afgooye.

In total, as many as 300,000 former residents of the capital live in a tangle of some 200 crowded and rudimentary settlements, and this week’s distribution targeted the most vulnerable people within that group.

Ms. Pagonis said it took UNHCR two days to transport the aid 30 kilometres because of the numerous checkpoints set up along the road by both soldiers and militiamen who demand money in return for safe passage.

As part of the aid, which arrived as the annual rainy season began, each family received one plastic sheet, one kitchen set, three blankets and six sleeping mats.

A second round of aid distribution will soon begin for another 40,000 IDPs in Afgooye and on the immediate outskirts of Mogadishu, while a separate but similar programme aims to provide relief to an estimated 12,000 people who fled recently to the seaside town of Marka.

Somalia, which has not had a functioning national government since 1991, has been beset by increasingly brutal fighting this year between Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Institution (TFI) forces and Islamist insurgents, particularly in Mogadishu.

Yesterday the Security Council adopted a resolution deploring the violence and deteriorating humanitarian situation and asking Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to press ahead with contingency plans to deploy a possible UN peacekeeping force to replace the under-resourced African Union force known as AMISOM.

16/05/08 (B447-B) All Africa avec Garowe Online : Puntland : des civils en provenance de Djibouti, arrêtés au motif d’avoir des liens avec les rebelles éthiopiens Front Ogaden et d’avoir suivi un entraînement en Erythrée / Somalia: More Civilians Arrested for Alleged Links to Ethiopia Rebels (En Anglais – Info lecteur)

Five Somalis who landed at an airport in the country’s northern sub-state of Puntland were arrested Wednesday minutes after they get off an airplane from neighboring Djibouti, a government official told Radio Garowe.

Yasin Said, the governor of Karkar region in Puntland, told Radio Garowe the group of five Somalis was arrested by Puntland Intelligence Service (PIS) officers at Bossaso airport.

The detainees were then loaded onto vehicles and transported towards Garowe, the capital of Puntland.

But an intervention by a senior government official in Puntland halted the detainees’ trip to Garowe, according to the governor.

"The Security Minister [Abdullahi Said Samatar] gave the order to return the detainees [back] to Bossaso," Gov. Said, referring to the region’s commercial hub.

The governor of Karkar region, which is located south of Bossaso, said he accompanied police units to a checkpoint in the northern part of Qardho, the provincial capital.

Gov. Said stated that he was "displeased" by the detentions, while indicating to Radio Garowe that such an act only harms the image and security of Puntland.

Many people in Bossaso, including traditional elders and community leaders, have condemned the arbitrary arrests of the five Somali civilians.

A Puntland government source said the five detained civilians are accused of receiving military training in Eritrea and of having alleged links with the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), ), an Ethiopian rebel movement made up of ethnic Somali fighters.

A community source privately told Garowe Online that local activists contacted Puntland Vice President Hassan Dahir Afqura, pleading with him to stop PIS agents from transferring the detainees over to the Ethiopian government.

But the Vice President said that he can do nothing in the matter, since a "third hand" was directly involved in the arrests.

The Puntland leader, Gen. Adde Muse, was then contacted in Addis Ababa, where he has been staying for a number of weeks for reasons undisclosed to the public.

Last month, PIS agents in Garowe arrested and handed over to Ethiopian intelligence services two politicians with the ONLF.

Days later, a group of eight civilians were detained by the PIS and later transferred to Ethiopian authorities.

International human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have accused the Ethiopian government of committing war crimes in Somalia and torturing domestic opponents of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

13/05/08 (B447-B) Allafrica.com avec Garowe online / Somaliland : le médiateur principal, côté gouvernemental, quitte les discussions, pour permettre de résoudre le conflit, entre le Président du Somaliland et les partis d’opposition, concernant l’élection des représentants. Somalia: Key Mediator Quits Talks to Resolve Somaliland Election Dispute (En Anglais – Info lecteur)

A key official in the government of Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland announced Monday that he has quit mediation efforts to help resolve an election dispute between the Somaliland president and opposition party leaders.

Abdirahman « Irro » Mohamed, Speaker of the House of Representatives, told parliament in the capital Hargeisa that both sides are « unwilling to compromise » to help end the election crisis.

The separatist republic’s two official opposition parties, Kulmiye and UCID, have publicly announced that they will not recognize the presidency of Mr. Dahir Riyale following May 15, when his constitutional term in office ends.

But President Riyale has maintained that he is the President of Somaliland for another year, following a decision last month by the Guurti, parliament’s upper house, extending his term until April 2009.

According to Speaker Abdirahman Irro, the Somaliland leader has refused to meet face-to-face with opposition leaders until Kulmiye and UCID publicly recognize his presidency.

Describing the damage the election dispute has caused, Mr. Irro told parliament: « The countries intending to donate US$8 million to help finance voter registration have decided to withhold [the donation] until the election crisis is resolved. »

Somaliland’s leader has justified the one-year term extension on grounds that the House of Guurti has the constitutional authority to grant him such an extension, and secondly, that the local government and the presidential elections be held six months apart.

The local elections, originally scheduled to be held in December 2007, were rescheduled for October this year by the Guurti decision.

Somaliland, composed of northwestern regions in Somalia, unilaterally declared independence from the rest of the country in 1991.

The breakaway region has a government and has enjoyed relative peace since, but one insider pointed out to Garowe Online that the ongoing election crisis is one of the most serious political disputes in Somaliland in the past decade.

05/05/08 (B446) ALL AFRICA avec Garowe online : Le Maire de Mogadiscio Mohamed Dheere rejette avec colère la proposition du Premier Ministre visant à créer des gouvernements régionaux avec le soutien des populations. Somalia: Mogadishu Mayor Angrily Rejects Deputy PM’s Suggestion (En Anglais – Info lecteur

The mayor of Somalia’ s capital has publicly rejected an idea suggested by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Abdisalam that new regional governments built on community consensus will be established across the country.

Mogadishu Mayor Mohamed « Dheere » Omar, who is also the governor of Banadir region, told a Somali radio station Sunday that the Deputy Prime Minister’s remarks are misplaced.

« Ahmed Abdisalam has no business in the establishment of a Banadir regional government and he should stick to his Ministry [of Information], » Mayor Mohamed Dheere said angrily.

Mr. Mohamed Dheere said he welcomes the idea of holding elections for the post of Banadir governor, which he said he has high hopes of winning.

But Mogadishu’s mayor said the Deputy Prime Minister should first establish an administration for his home region in Dhusamareb in central Somalia before discussing political issues in Banadir, which is located in the south of the country.

Somalia’s transitional government has routinely appointed regional governors from Mogadishu, but some of the appointed governors faced local disapproval.

In Hiran and Gedo regions, for example, government-appointed governors were either chased out by Islamist insurgents, as was the case in Hiran region, or defeated in a community-based democratic gubernatorial election, as happened in Gedo region in April.

Last week, Deputy PM and Information Minister Abdisalam told a crowd of journalists in Mogadishu that the transitional government is in the process of creating regional administrations that enjoy popular support among locals.

The region of Banadir, where Mogadishu is located, is first in line for the transitional government’s plans to replace existing governors with rulers supported by the local community, according to Mr. Abdisalam.

29/04/08 (B445) All Africa avec Garowe on line : De fortes tensions dans la Capitale du Somaliland, suivies par des émeutes. Somalia: Tensions High in Somaliland Capital Following Violent Riots (Info lecteur – En Anglais)

Police forces in the capital of Somalia’s separatist state of Somaliland clashed with hundreds of angry rioters on Sunday, prompting opposition parties to condemn the government for using « excessive force » against civilians.

In a joint press communiqué, Somaliland opposition parties Kulmiye and UCID condemned the breakaway region’s government for the « ugly and excessive use of force against civilians, » adding that the episode showed the residents of Hargeisa that the « current government is more merciless than that of [former Somali President] Siad Barre. »

The harsh criticism from the opposition parties was issued a day after Hargeisa police opened gunfire on rioters, who were reportedly burning tires and throwing stones at officers.

At least two civilians were confirmed dead and more than 10 police officers wounded, sources told Garowe Online.

Local newspapers reported that the protestors initially began their demonstration in opposition to the Hargeisa city council’s decision to add three new districts to the Somaliland capital and rename one district in the southern quarter of the city.

But as more protestors joined the demonstration, rioting began and protestors expressed their dissatisfaction with a range of issues, from President Dahir Riyale’s controversial one-year term extension to the sky-high prices for food and gas.

The rioters were eventually convinced to return to their homes after Air Transport Minister Ali Waranadde read aloud an official document signed by Interior Minister Abdullahi « Irro » Ismail.

According to the Interior Minister’s letter, the Hargeisa city council’s decision to create three new districts was « illegal, » citing that the Interior Ministry was not informed before the decision was taken.

But growing dissatisfaction with the Riyale administration is not limited to the public.

On Monday, Hargeisa-based independent newspaper Jamhuuriya reported that lawmakers in the Somaliland parliament’s upper chamber, the House of Guurti, had « threatened each other with pistols. »

A group of dissident House of Guurti legislators wanted to introduce a motion rescinding President Riyale’s one-year term extension, which was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Guurti earlier this month.

But the acting chairman of the Guurti, Sheikh Ahmed Sheikh Nuh, told the dissident lawmakers that the motion will first have to be studied and approved by the House’s legal counsel before being debated on the parliament floor.

His comment immediately sparked anger inside the parliament and eventually led to legislators throwing fists at each other.

Outside parliament, legislators continued to exchange heated words regarding President Riyale’s term extension, a development that has generated public anger and condemnation from the opposition parties.

One dissident legislator, MP Awil Hussein Ahmed, told Jamhuuriya that Second Deputy Speaker Said Jama Ali pulled a gun on him while at a hotel.

« The parliament leaders are acting in such a way today that they pull a gun out on anyone who speaks [his mind], » MP Awil told Jamhuuriya.

Somaliland, composed of Somalia’s northwestern regions, unilaterally declared independence from the rest of the country in 1991 after a decade of armed struggle against the government of Somali dictator Siad Barre.

No country has recognized Somaliland as an independent state, although the separatist republic has its own government, currency, flag and security forces.

26/04/08 (B445) ALL AFRICA / Selon le porte-parole des tribunaux islamiques, des déserteurs de l’Armée du GNT auraient rejoint avec armes et bagages les forces islamiques – Somalia: Government Soldiers? Surrender to the Islamists – Spokesman (En Anglais – Info lecteur)

Shabelle Media Network (Mogadishu)

The spokesman of the Islamic courts union sheikh Ibrahim Suley has announced that several soldiers with armed vehicle deserted from Somali government have given in their islamist fighters on Friday.

Is a telephone news conference he held for the local media Sheikh Suley has stated that unnumbered soldiers with gunship vehicle have give in to the Islamic courts and he added that would be parts of the Islamic fighters fighting against Somali government and Ethiopian troops in Somalia.

He further said that the defected soldiers from the TFG couldn’t endure a plight they faced from the government that caused them to run off from the government as he put it.

The fighting was one of the fiercest in the Islamist stronghold of northern Mogadishu where the government and its Ethiopian allies are trying to flush out the remnants of a sharia courts movement ousted from the capital at the end of 2006.

He lastly called for the government troops to unite with their fighters.

“We call for them to repent for Allah and join in the Islamic revolution” he heatedly said.

The surrendered troops were parts of Heliwa district soldiers where one of the heaviest battles between the Ethiopian allied government troops and armed islamist fighters occurred last week that left more than one hundred and wounded hundreds of others.

The interim administration is struggling to contain deepening Islamist-led deadly battles involving near-daily attacks on allied Somali-Ethiopian troops.

The Horn of Africa nation of nine million people has suffered constant violence since the 1991 fall of a military dictator. Ethiopia sent thousands of troops in 2006 to help the Western-backed interim government oust Islamists from Mogadishu.

Saying it was impossible to verify facts on the ground without a permanent U.N. presence, Ould-Abdallah called for the world body’s mainly Kenyan-based offices dealing with Somalia to be moved into the country, with proper security.

« We cannot, for 18 years, be sitting in Nairobi and say we will work on Somalia … by remote control, » he said.

« Either we move closer to the victims of abuse, of violence, of drought, of famine … Or we give up on Somalia and devote these resources to other places. »

The envoy saw little prospect of a U.N. peacekeeping force in Somalia until there was internal political progress.

« This will not happen if we don’t have a group of Somalis who have the courage to sit together and make that minimum agreement, » he said. « The U.N. has so many things on its plate. They are requested and welcome in many other places, so I don’t see them rushing to Somalia unless there is minimum stability. »

A small 1,800-strong African Union force, mainly Ugandans, has done little to stem violence in Somalia, though it has won plaudits for providing medical care and securing areas like Mogadishu’s port and presidential palace.

Ould-Abdallah said the awkward truth was that some Somali leaders were « comfortable » with perpetuating war for selfish motives, despite the immense suffering to the population.

He criticised the international community for its « neglect, terrible abandonment » of Somalia, particularly on failing to pursue justice for war crimes as it had done in places like Ivory Coast, Cambodia or former Yugoslavia.

« I have not seen anyone put on the blacklist … or sanctions against criminals and their foreign associates, people sending weapons, » he said

25/04/08 (B444-B) ALL Africa avec ONU / Les dernières journées de violence en Somalie ont fait partir plusieurs milliers de civils. Somalia: Renewed Violence Drives Thousands Out of Capital – UN (En Anglais – Info lecteur)

UN News Service (New York)

25 April 2008

Some 7,000 people have fled the Somali capital Mogadishu after a new round of fighting this week that killed a significant number of civilians and reportedly wounded 200 people, including women and children, the United Nations refugee agency announced today.

"The exodus from the war-ravaged city further aggravates the situation in a country where over 1 million people are already internally displaced," Ron Redmond, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva, adding that some 700,000 left Mogadishu last year alone. "The latest violence also prevents the internally displaced living in areas surrounding the city from returning to their homes.

He pointed out that international aid agencies, including UNHCR, are impeded from providing affected populations with the protection and assistance they need. Furthermore, aid workers encounter problems at checkpoints, including demands for money in exchange for passage.

Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces fought with insurgents, and according to eyewitness reports, over 1,000 families fled their homes in two neighbourhoods north of Mogadishu following heavy shelling of residential areas.

"Scores of civilians have reportedly been killed or wounded over the past few days, among them worshippers brutally killed in a mosque, sparking fresh fears and renewed exodus of civilians from the city," Mr. Redmond observed.

Many of those who have left Mogadishu are seeking safety in the bush or on the road leading to Afgooye.

That town, which is 30 km west of the capital, is already sheltering over 250,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), most of whom who escaped violence in Mogadishu last year.

UNHCR reported that since yesterday, the fighting has stopped in Mogadishu, but people continue to leave the city, though the numbers are falling.

As soon as the security situation allows, the agency will distribute non-food items – including sleeping mats, blankets, jerry cans and plastic sheets – to settlements for up to 14,000 families, or 84,000 people, along the road between Mogadishu and Afgooye.

Earlier this week, an independent UN human rights expert condemned the killing of civilians in Somalia, including a number of religious leaders, and called for an immediate end to the violence that has flared up in recent weeks in the Horn of Africa nation.

In a statement, Ghanim Alnajjar, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, condemned in particular the alleged deliberate killing of numerous clerics belonging to "Altabligh Group" at the Al-Hidaya Compound/Mosque.

"The killings have to be investigated expeditiously and impartially, and any lasting peace in Somalia must be based on justice, truth and accountability," he stated.