Thursday, October 13, 2011 0 comments

Jerry Rawlings visits Somalia, condemns extremist attack

Mogadishu, Oct 13 – Former Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings who is the African Union High Representative for Somalia visited Mogadishu to console bereaved families of a recent suicide attack as well as to inspire the government to keep up with its political and military transformation in order to prepare the country for elections scheduled for August next year.

Speaking after meeting Somali President Sheikh Sharif and Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali as well as AMISOM commanders, Rawlings noted that Mogadishu is slowly recovering from the protracted war and condemned a recent suicide attack in Mogadishu by Al-Shabaab extremists which killed over 80 people and wounded more than 100 others. Most of the fatalities were Somali students hoping to pursue further studies in Turkey.

“My main reason for coming was to come and express my condolence to the parents through the government for those who lost their lives and to actually make them understand that this kind of cowardly and brutal behavior by the extremists is an admission of their military failure and this is why they had to resort to picking on some target, to picking on innocents which am afraid will only cost them politically,” Rawlings said after his one day visit to Mogadishu before away.

The former Ghanian leader said that he discussed with Somali leaders about the ongoing peace efforts and hopes to see Somali politicians coming together to steer the country past the current transition period which is impeding the much needed reconstruction efforts the war ravaged country badly needs.

“The military push seems to be far ahead of the political move, the political transformation, the political process that should be taking place. The sooner we close the gap the better it will be for all of us. I think in itself will generate a very healthy atmosphere among the public that we are serious about going through the transition and ending the transition as early as possible so that we can have a nationally elected institutions into the executive offices,” He said, referring to the recent military successes by Somali forces and AU peacekeepers against Al-Shabaab militants who have now been pushed out of the city.

Mr. Rawlings, whose first visit in January coincided with a humanitarian catastrophe as a result of a severe drought, said that he was pleased with the humanitarian response but called for robust mechanism to make sure the aid reaches the worst affected regions in south and central Somalia.

The pathetic conditions of tens of thousands of Somalis affected by a severe drought in Somalia many of who have fled into Mogadishu and living in squalid camps with little food or medical care has attracted world attention prompting many leaders to visit Somalia in a bid to show solidarity with the affected population.

“There is a much healthier atmosphere in terms of the social and economic activity. There is a very busy environment which I think reflects a very healthy sign. Some areas are receiving the necessary humanitarian assistance and medication but it is how to get the aid into the needy areas in the hinterland that really matters now,” he added.

The 63 year old former President of Ghana was named as the Africa Union’s High Representative to Somalia in October 2010 and tasked with mobilizing the continent and the rest of the international community to fully assume its responsibilities and contribute more actively to the quest for peace, security and reconciliation in Somalia.

He believes African countries are positively contributing towards helping Somalia attain peace but calls upon more support in order to help the once powerful country of Somalia to stand on its feet and claim its rightful place among other nations.

“There is a lot of hope otherwise Africans would not have deployed their troops on the ground suffering, sacrificing and dying for fellow Somalians to see a nation stand back on its feet. In terms of the contributions that also took place I think it is a very healthy sign that this is the first time we have embarked on this kind of request for Africans to give up themselves and I think they have done pretty well. It may not be that much but it is a beginning,” Rawlings added with a smile looking relaxed.
Friday, October 7, 2011 0 comments

Somalia suicide bomber aimed for maximum damage

Mogadishu - Bishar Abdullahi Nur, the man who exploded himself in Mogadishu last Tuesday killing 72 people and who wounded over a hundred others in a suicide attack at a government compound housing several ministries, says he aimed for maximum damage. He believed his target housed government top secrets and top commanders, the 28-year-old suicide bomber said in an audio message recorded hours before he carried out the attack.

Among those he killed were students and their parents checking out results of a Turkish scholarship and many innocent civilians going about their business in Mogadishu’s busiest road close to the famous K4 junction. Al Shabaab immediately claimed responsibility for the attack claiming that they killed government security personnel and warned civilians from going to government offices because many more suicide bombers are on the way.

“If we inflict maximum damage to the enemy, then we thank Allah. That is what we wanted and hoped for, if ministers die, we kill commanders and infidels or destroy documents and letters because we are told there are so many secrets there of the apostate government. We hope this will be the beginning and the mujahideens will gain victory from our act,” Bishar said, responding to a question posed by another possible Al Shabaab reporter who did not give his name.

Asked to describe his feelings just hours before going to explode himself, Bishar calmly says he is happy and is ready to meet his God but still asks Somalis to pray for him. The planning and execution of the attack as well as the audio message carries all the hallmarks of Al Qaeda and reaffirms the link between Al Shabaab militants in Somalia and their global masters, Al-Qaeda, whom they always wish to please.
The audio was posted in an Al Shabaab website where the militants post their propaganda messages.

Al Shabaab militants in Mogadishu control several radio stations, most of which they confiscated from private companies which they also use to spread their propaganda aimed at wooing many Somalis youngsters at joining their unholy cause. Bishar was born and raised in Mogadishu’s Hamar jadiid and Gubta neighbourhoods. In the audio he also spoke about the biting drought, urging wealthy Somalis to help their needy brothers and at the same time criticising humanitarian agencies and the UN of using food to Christianise the Muslim majority Somalis. He says their aim is to free the Muslims and hope what he was about to do will be a catalyst for Al Shabaab victory against the Somali government and their African Union backers.

He even compared himself to Mohamed Attam, accused by US authorities of leading the 9/11 attacks, saying that those who attacked America were mujahideens like him and praying to Allah to accept his martyrdom mission. “These men did not go to America to get worldly possessions, they did not go there to rule America and they did not go for purposes of ruling the world... We are not going in order to get wealth, we are not going in order to get a name, we are not going in order to be told so and so is brave, we are going because we want Allah to be pleased with us,” the would-be-suicide bomber said referring to Mohamed Attam and the other suspected Al Qaeda militants who targeted several US cities on September 11, 2001.

Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed expressed shock and condemned Al Shabaab, saying the militants will not stop the Somali people from living in peace and that their 'holy war' has nothing to do with Islam. “I am extremely shocked and saddened by this cruel and inhumane act of violence against the most vulnerable in our society. I would like to send my deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and the people of Somalia, I pray for the dead and speedy recovery for the injured,” President Sharif said.

He added that the attack was launched by Al-Shabab/Al-Qaeda and that it was “set on destroying the country and any hope for its people’s future. Al-Shabab is an enemy of the Somali people and an enemy of the future stability of Somalia.” Al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamed Rage confirmed that the group had carried out the attack. The Turkish government which had offered scholarships to most of the killed or wounded students evacuated 37 of the most severely injured people for treatment while many others are still receiving treatment in the government run Madina hospital and a hospital managed by the African Union peacekeepers.

Mogadishu residents are still trying to come to terms with what happened and many of them believe the attack will further alienate Al Shabaab from the society. As if to show their resilience to such attacks, residents are seen going about their businesses as if nothing happened around the streets close to the scene of the attack.

“Al Shabaab can kill a million of our people if they want but it will not change our perception of their murderous gang. We are tired of their bloodletting tactics and their cowardly attack on civilians. If they are men enough they should confront the soldiers in the frontline and not kill women and children who have nothing to do with the war,” an angry Nurto Muse, a mother whose son was wounded in the attack said.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011 0 comments

Al-Shabaab strikes again, killing innocent civilians.

Mogadishu, October 4 - An Al-Shabaab suicide bomber driving a truck laden with explosives and petrol exploded at a government premise housing several ministries in the busy K4 area of Mogadishu killing scores of people and injuring nearly a hundred others.

The explosion occurred around mid morning at a time when traffic is heavy at a road opposite the targeted government premise housing several ministries including offices for the Higher education ministry where students and their parents were waiting for their examination results for scholarships offered by the Turkish government.

This is another brazen attack by Al-Shabaab, who had the audacity to claim responsibility of killing innocent children, women and men. The attack was expected, since when Al-Shabaab forces withdrew from most of their positions in the various frontlines in Mogadishu.

One Mogadishu resident was survived the attack could not understand what Al-Shabaab hopes to gain from such a cowardly attack against civilians.

"I was less than 100 meters from the attacked position. The intensity of the attacked pushed me to a wall. The scene was all bloody with limbs and body parts everywhere. What I don't understand is what these terrorist hope to gain by killing their own brothers, sisters and mothers. Whatever their intention, they should know that we will never forget this heinous attack. They are our enemies," Bule Abdi said, still disturbed by the bloody attack.

The government later issued a statement saying 15 people died and 20 wounded. Meanwhile Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility of the attack.

Today's attacked comes after nearly a month of clam in Mogadishu,, where gun are conspicuously silent following the Al-Shabaab withdrawal in August.
Sunday, October 2, 2011 0 comments

Twin celebrations for Nigerian Police in Somalia.

Mogadishu October 2 – As millions of Nigerians celebrated their 51st Independence Day anniversary, eight police officers from Nigeria serving in Somalia enjoyed a twin celebration thousands of miles away in Mogadishu after being decorated for serving in the Africa Union peacekeeping mission, AMISOM.

The eight police officers, Assistant Commissioner Isaac Sunday Obafaye, Chief Superintendent Nasiru Mohammed, Superintendent Saluna Muntua Saleh, Superintendent Nana Garba Bature, Deputy Superintendent Augustine Egim, Assistant Superintendent Marcus Nyams Bako, Assistant Superintendent Maryam Hamman and Inspector Ruth Ade Makinwa received gold plated medals courtesy of AMISOM for their dedication and service to the Somali police force.

The Somali Police Force like many other institutions in Somalia did not survive the bloody civil war in the Horn of African country after the ouster of former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, who incidentally died in Lagos, Nigeria while in exile there on January 2, 1995.

The medals ceremony coincided with Nigeria’s 51st Independence Day celebrations, which the officers from Nigeria, celebrated in style in the still silence of Mogadishu, a city ravaged by clan and ideological wars in the past two decades. In the recent past months though, the city has enjoyed a relative peace following the defeat of Al-Shabab militants by AMISOM peacekeepers and Somali forces.

The twin party in Mogadishu started with a parade mounted by the smartly dressed Nigerian police officers consisting of four women officers and four male officers who patriotically sang and saluted as their national anthem reverberated in the background with the green, white and green national flag of Nigeria flying high next to Somalia’s Sky Blue flag and the green flag of the African Union.

Each of the officers was then decorated with a gold plated medal by Mr. Wafula Wamunyinyi, the Deputy African Union Special Representative in Somalia at the AMISOM Force headquarters in camp Halane, next to the sea side Aden Ade International airport in Mogadishu.

The Nigerian police contingent later hosted Mr. Wamunyinyi, the AMISOM Force Commander Major General Fred Mugisha and other senior AMISOM military and police officers from across Africa at a well decorated mess where guests broke the kola nut in accordance with Nigerian traditions amid drinks and chocolates with the history of Africa’s most populous nation beaming from a computer aided screen.

“The kola nut is grown in the west, adored in the east and eaten in the north of Nigeria. In our culture in Nigeria, the breaking of kola nuts comes before any celebrations including funeral ceremonies. It is therefore our pleasure to request our dear prince and our Nigerian Police contingent commander to break the kola nut to mark our twin celebrations of decoration by AMISOM as well as our 51st independence celebration,” Master of Ceremony Deputy Superintendent Augustine Egim, who is also the AMISOM Police spokesman said.

The kola nuts were imported all the way from Nigeria specifically for the twin celebrations together with specially designed Nigerian attires which were handed to the guest of honour Mr. Wamunyinyi as well as the AMISOM Force Commander Major General Fred Mugisha and two other guests seated at the high table.

“Nigeria strongly contributes towards the African Union and has participated in many peacekeeping missions in Africa. We wish to congratulate the people of Nigeria during their 51st independence anniversary celebration and urge them to continue their much-needed efforts in making Africa a better and safer place for us all, “ the AU Deputy Representative to Somalia, Mr. Wamunyinyi said.

AMISOM Force Commander Maj. Gen Mugisha said terrorism does not know borders by reminding the people of Africa on the destruction and deaths that continues to be carried out by terror gangs in both Somalia and Nigeria courtesy of Al-Shabaab and the Boko Haram terrorist organizations respectively.

“African countries cannot just watch as Somalia slips further into chaos because no country is safe from terrorism. We know Al-Shabaab militants help and train Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria. We thank our big brother Nigeria for sending their police to come and train their Somali brothers but we believe Nigerian military should also join us here to stem out terrorism from Somalia before it spreads.” The general noted.

Later after dusk though, the flamboyantly proud Nigerian police officers in Mogadishu danced and enjoyed their twin celebrations at their AMISOM Police quarters, where they live with other police officers from Sierra Leone, Ghana and Uganda.

“I wish to urge African women to push their men and leaders to help the Somali people. We cannot enjoy as our sisters and children in Somalia languish in poverty and war, it is not fair at all,” Superintendent Saluna Muntua Saleh said, looking relaxed and happy.

The young and old freely mingled after a light dinner of lamb chops, goat meat and potatoes served by the four Nigerian women police officers who downed their colourful West African dresses.

The music and dance that accompanied the dinner did not disappoint either. West African music dominated the night with almost everyone in attendance swinging a leg every time Nigerian musical darling Flavour’s song Ashawo hit the airwaves.

“It is good to dance and enjoy our decoration and our independence day in Mogadishu. We have come to Somalia to help our brothers and sisters get out of the current problems. We wish to assure our people back home that we are well and that we dully represent them in Somalia,” Nigerian Police Contingent Commander and Assistant Commissioner of Police Isaac Sunday Obafaye said.

His Deputy Nasiru Mohammed is touched by the impact of the war in Mogadishu and remembers the great old days when Somalia was a powerful country in Africa that has a rich culture.

“Somalia’s problem is a challenge to the whole of Africa. Africa must come together to help this great country called Somalia. I remember in 1977 when Somalia attended a cultural event in Nigeria and actually won it. We must never accept to see such a great nation go to waste,” he said, sweat dripping off his face from dancing to the rigorous and demanding Nigerian tunes.
Monday, July 25, 2011 0 comments

Somalia’s walking corpses.

By Guled Mohamed

DOOBLEY, Somalia, July 19 – Just hours after giving birth to her first born son and still reeling from the excruciating pain of labour, 20 year old Madina Abdi, had to hurriedly jump into a truck ferrying starving children and elderly men and women fleeing a severe drought that has left half of Somalia’s population in dire need of emergency food aid.

When the truck ferrying over 150 dust-filled hungry Somalis together with Madina and her yet-to-be named 4 day old son finally made it into Doobley town 24 hours later and without eating anything, the young mother was so weak and barely able to get out of the crowded truck forcing her equally frail looking young husband to carry her off the vehicle.

Around a 100 pale-looking children uncontrollably wept for food as their feeble mothers helpless watched, not knowing what to tell them. Many of the elderly passengers could not open their mouth to speak, instead pointed at their empty pangs as if to tell us they were too hungry to speak.

The few who gathered strength to speak gave a chilling account of their journey from Dinsoor in Bakool region located around 300 kilometers to the Somali border town of Doobley. Bakol and the two Shabelle regions are the worst affected by the biting drought which neither has spared the other parts of Somalia.

Their condition was so appalling, we were so touched and had to chip into our pockets to buy them food. They said the two sacks of rice, one bag of sugar and 10 litres of cooking oil and some milk for the kids would give them the necessary energy to trek to Dadaab where they hope they would get aid assistance.

“I was struggling to hold my son because the truck was packed to the brim. We fled from hunger after our livestock perished and our farms in Gurban village dried up. We hope to get food and shelter at the refugee camps where we are heading. We have not celebrated his birth and neither have we even named him yet. Food is our priority at the moment,” Madina said safely tucking her toddler under her dusty clothes away from the scorching sun and dusty surrounding.

Those fleeing Somalia are mostly farmers and herdsmen from the country’s food basket areas of Middle and Lower Shabele, Middle Juba region as well as Bay region in the south and central parts of the country severely hit by the drought, the worst to hit Somalia the last half a century.

The United Nations has officially announced a famine in the country due to the high levels of malnourishment rates among children above normal thresholds of 30 percent in a country dogged by two decades of a bloody conflict that has made life even worse for many of its impoverished residents.

The hunger-stricken Somalis are either fleeing towards the refugee camps in Kenya or towards the capital Mogadishu depending on distance. Those interviewed in Doobley and on their way to the Kenyan refugee camps in Dadaab said many more drought victims were trekking towards the refugee camps with the weakest dropping dead on the way. Somali officials say the drought has already claimed at least 10,000 people.

“Thousands of people fleeing the drought come daily through Doobley by bus or trucks. The unlucky ones trek hundreds of miles arriving tired and looking so frail like walking corpses. The situation is so bad and people have started to die of hunger and thirst. We cannot do much to help because we are also affected. All we do for them is to give them water and share the little food we have,” said Adan Dahir Hassan, Dobley district commissioner.

On our way back from Doobley, we met some more Somalis fleeing the drought by foot.

“People are dropping off dead on the way. The situation is so serious. I managed to survive by eating wild fruits and sipping small amounts of water I carried. We had to plead for a lift for the most vulnerable children and women who could barely walk as a result of swollen feet. I have never witnessed such a magnitude of suffering in my life, it is simply horrible,” said Nuuno Nuurow, a 50 year old father of 5 trekking towards the refugee camps whose children were among those who hitched a lift.

Habiba Abdirahman, 70, whom we met pulling her few belongings on a Donkey cart that also carried her granddaughter along the Liboi-Dadaab road also gave a chilling account of their death-defying journey past Al-Shabaab militants who despite allowing aid agencies access to the affected regions are reportedly stopping the drought-stricken Somalis from moving towards the refugee camps in Kenya, in Mogadishu and across the Ethiopian border where the refugees can expect help.

“We left Diinsoor 30 days ago by foot after our livestock perished and everyone was fleeing the hunger. The little food reservoir we carried finished a day ago. We have been living off begging for food from commuters and residents. I can keep walking but my only worry is my grand daughter who has not had a meal since yesterday. We don’t know what to expect at the refugee camps. We simply hope to get food and shelter there,” she said, pointing at her skinny grandchild safely tacked on top of the cart.

Back at the overcrowded refugee camps in Dadaab, there are two contrasting images and conditions of the Somali refugee. You will see a few well-off refugees eking out a living from running businesses at the camps where they have lived for the last two decades.

However, the most disturbing image is that of the newly arrived refugees who have no food, water or a place to call home prompting their better off relatives and friends to donate clothes and share food with them. Every Somali refugee you speak to has a sad story to say. Some of them have even lost family members on the way out of hunger-related conditions.

International aid agencies assisting the Somali refugee say they are overwhelmed by the record number of arriving refugees. According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, which manages the 3 refugee camps of Ifo, Dagahalay and Hagadera that receive at least 1,500 Somali refugees daily fleeing the biting hunger at home further congesting the refugee camps in Dadaab, home to already around 380, 000 refugees from Somalia, a country without an effective government since 1991.

The World Food Programme, which provides cereals and specialized foodstuff for children for curbing the rising malnourishment rates within the refugee camps, says despite funding shortfalls they are managing the humanitarian catastrophe.

“Our food pipeline is tight but we have enough to keep feeding the Somali refugees as we keep knocking all doors of our main donors and other possible new donors in order to continue saving lives. We give a 15 day ration of cereals, cooking oil and sugar to each registered family. For the malnourished children under the age of 5 we give a special Corn Soya Blend (CSB), a protein-rich foodstuff that helps them recover quickly from the malnutrition,” WFP Kenya Public Information Officer, Rose Ogolla said at a food distribution point in Dagahaly refugee camp .

As the south and central regions continue to witness dry spells, incidentally, monsoon rains have been pounding Mogadishu for the last few days further complicating conditions of those who have fled towards the city due to lack of proper shelter and medicine at a time when measles outbreak has been reported in the capital city and surrounding areas.

In Dadaab though, Somali refugees say they have to put with poor conditions at the moment because aid coming in is too little compared to the magnitude of their problems.

Khadija Abdisalan, who arrived at Dagahaly refugee camp’s new “Bula Bakhti” unit or the Corpses camp a month ago, struggled to explain her young family’s miseries and the condition of her 10 month old severely malnourished daughter called Shukri.

“My breasts have dried up due to the starvation we are experience at home. We have nothing much to eat because we just arrived last month. She was a healthy baby girl a few months ago but now she is so skinny with protruding bones. My worst fear is loosing her. I just hope she will make it,” Khadija said, tears flowing off her pale cheeks.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011 0 comments

Is it too late too little as Al-Shabaab lifts aid ban?

July 6 - Popaganga is a very powerful tool and that is what the extremist group Al-Shabaab seems to have mastered. Unfortunately, their propagandist manouvers sometimes goes beyond reasonable logic.

Tens of thousands of Somalis are langusihing in drought-stricken areas controlled by the extremist group and it has taken the group months to realize they had made a huge blunder.

On Tuesday evening the group sought to clear their name from any blame by announcing what they have done for the poor people as well as calling upon humanitarian agencies to help alleviate the suffering of the mostly rural peasants and nomadic population affected by the hard-hitting drought which is fast wiping everything it in its wake. across.

In a bid to redeem their public image, Al-Shabaab has now urged aid agencies to come forward and assist the affected populations. This comes after months of refusing the same aid agencies they often referred to as "INFIDELS" access to help mitigate effects of the prolonged drought that has now started claiming the lives of emaciated victims located across almost the entire south and central regions of Somalia.

Even this time round they tied the appeal with a condition saying they would only allow aid agencies without "a hidden agenda" as if their baseless claim for previously denying access to the much needed life saving interventions by humanitarian organizations was anything to go by.

Is the latest Al-Shabaab move too little too late?

Saving any human being is always a noble mission. The only regret is their unfounded crackdown on denying affected populations their rightful assistance when they needed it most.

It's never too late to come to the rescue of a dying population, especially those facing a drought of the same magnitude as that in Somalia where the food prices are said to have rised by over 200 percent as a result of lack of rains in the worst drought to have hit teh country for the past 10 years.

The drought situation is said to be so serious that children and the elderly have started dying from starvation-related complications with over 1500 people crossing on daily basis into the already overflowing refugee camps in Kenyan.

The latest decision by the extremists group to finally allow humanitarian agencies access to the affected regions is welcome. However, the access must be unhindred and safety of the aid workers must be guaranteed given that Al-Shabaab is known to have killed aid workers before.

Let us hope the extremists have learnt their lessons, although past experiences has shown that the group never learns from past mistakes.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 0 comments

Time to walk the talk.

A lot has been said or written following the acrimonious dismissal of former Somalia Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajo, who has since become a public idol amongst the Somali people.

Many Somalis were unhappy when Farmajo was stripped off his PM post last month in a dubious political agreement between bitter rivals President Sheikh Sharif and the Speaker of parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden.

For the first time in Somalia's long feuding history, ordinary Somalis bitterly protested the decision to sack PM Farmajo. People demonstrated in Mogadishu, Europe and North America irregardless of their clan affiliations.

“They say everyone can differentiate bad from good. We want the world to know that Farmajo was our best hope. He proved himself and has paid a price for his vision and patriotism. History will judge him right. The issue of clans is no longer a problem in Somali, the people were simply held hostage by corrupt and egocentric leaders who did not care for the ordinary people. Farmajo was very different from the crop of leaders we have. It’s a pity he has been kicked out but we will never forget him.” Said one of the protestors in Mogadishu, draped in the sky-blue colours of his flag.

Even government soldiers were not left behind. They joined women and children in calling for Farmajo to be spared. They even threatened to leave their defensive positions if he was forced out. It took Farmajo himself to restrain people.

But what baffles many pundits and the ordinary folk alike is simply what the soft-spoken bespectacled Faramjo did to win such an unprecedented support across the myriad Somali clans who have never agreed on anything and everything before. Such unity of purpose has eluded Somalia for many years.

When he was appointment Prime Minister of Somalia on October 14 many people thought he would just come and go like the many other PM's who preceded him. But that was not the case.

Like any other politician, he set out his targets by giving himself 100 days to show results. That is where Farmajo differs from the rest of other Somali politicians who only seem too preoccupied with enriching themselves at the expense of their war-weary constituents and badly dilapidated war-ravaged country.

He chose to serve his people by breaking away from past practices of nepotism and corruption, which unfortunately were the order of the day. As soon taking office he centralized government finances by strengthening the central bank and directing that all monies be stashed there.

Briefcase ministries were a thing of the past during his reign. He even outlawed the hire of private jets, a common practice in the past, forcing himself and fellow cabinet members as well as top officials including the speaker of parliament to fly on regular public airlines. The President was the only official allowed to fly privately, which in many cases makes sense largely due to security related reasons.

He also warned government officers against sleaze saying anyone caught stealing public money will be prosecuted. In simple terms, he led by example in stopping unnecessary costs and focusing on result oriented projects.

He ordered port officials and airport management to remit their daily tax collection to the central bank where no one was allowed to withdraw money without presenting a signed cheque bearing his signature.

His efforts paid off as the government was able to save tens of thousand of dollars which initially disappeared without trace. The new financial savings allowed the government to pay off civil servants including government soldiers who rarely received any salaries before.

He even made sure lawmakers started receiving their monthly pay from the same public coffers.

Mogadishu city started glittering during his reign too as streets were lit and cleaned. Garbage collection was a daily chore in which he himself took part in the clean up exercise.

The best of all, government soldier were so happy with their pay roll that they started to seriously challenge Al-Shabaab in the various frontlines of Mogadishu. The government army with the help of AMISOM peacekeepers managed to unset Al-Shabaab from strategic and historical locations in Mogadishu including the former Defence headquarters and African village, which hosted the first OAU meeting in Mogadishu.

It was therefore a big releif of the whole world when a government soldier killed Fazul Mohamed Abdallah. Al-Qaeda most wanted man in East Africa on 8 June. Traditonally that governemnt soldiers who was manning a checkpoint would not have been in his post if it were not for Farmajo and his team's relentless efforts to pay off soldiers and ensure they are well catered for.

The Al-Shabaab loss to the government rekindled patriotism among many Somalis making PM Farmajo a favorite among the despondent population. In my opinion, this is what makes Faramajo the man of the moment in Somalia.

Sometimes I feel Somalia is so unfortunate. Every time the country takes one step forward, unknown forces fight back to take the country ten steps backwards. PM Farmajo might have left office but the people of Somalia know that he was the best hope for the country purely due to his openness and accountability.

I have no intention of ruling out the current PM, Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, who also served as a minister in Farmajo's cabinet. I believe in justice and feel that we should give Dr. Abdiweli and his team the same support we extended to PM Farmajo. After all what we seek to save is our dignity and our country Somalia.

I just want to thanks Farmajo for setting the standards so high. It is my belief as well as that of many goodwill Somalis and the rest of the world that Dr. Abdiweli will discharge his duties diligently and without fear or favor.

We might have lost a great leader in Farmajo, but who knows, Dr. Abdiweli might simply surprise us all by taking the country into greater heights. We are lucky that we have somewhere to start from thanks to the exemplary vision and patriotism of Farmajo and his team.

I pen off with a few lines from the Somali national anthem which will help us start walking the talk by coming together to support our brothers and sisters severely affected by drought and famine in Somalia.

Somalis wake up, wake up and support one another
Support you’re weakest
Support them forever.

Humanitarian appeal

Speach of Somali ambassador to Kenya Ambassador Mohamed Ali Nur

Today (30 June)– and at midnight – we will raise the Somali flag and celebrate Somalia’s brave search for nationhood.

In the creation of the Republic of Somalia, our people proudly stood up and joined the family of African nations. It was unimaginable happiness to break the colonial change as our African brothers did. However it is a human desire to aim high and succeed and sometimes fail as we are not different.

Today Somalia is facing a rocky road to convalesce its position as a sovereign state with confidence in its future, stable and secure.

As that political journey is made, I fear that the minds of most of the Somali people are focused on much more immediate concerns. The daily quest for the basics of existence is creating a barrier to Somali political stability and is endangering the lives of millions here on the continent of Africa.

Food, clean water and shelter are basics that many of us can take for granted. In Somalia, the story is different – and getting worse by the day. When mothers are not worrying about their offspring being recruited by the extremists Al Shabaab, they spend too much time worrying about where the next meal will come from.

With little infrastructure and support everyone knows that without international humanitarian support the plight of the Somali people would be much worse. But today the threat is grave and the danger imminent.

Coinciding with ongoing conflict today’s Somalia is the site of a tragic series of coincidences. An ongoing and severe drought, rising regional food prices, declining locally produced staple foods and reductions in the delivery of emergency food aid have all come together - threatening to turn a crisis into a catastrophe.

Some say this is not even imminent; an NGO Head operating in Lower Shabelle doesn’t say we are on the verge of a humanitarian disaster but we already in the middle of it.

Consecutive poor rainy seasons have made this year the driest one in Somalia since 1950. Last year’sdeyr rainfall from October to December was well below normal. The effect of La Nina is having its toll still. Most worryingly the UN fear that the rainfall situation will not improve until next year.

In recent days, we have seen and heard through the media about some of the tragic symptom of this growing crisis. Save the Children declared that unprecedented numbers are fleeing across the border into Kenya. About 1,300 people are arriving every day in Dadaab refugee camp. They are fleeing one of the worst droughts in generations as well as the ongoing conflict. We are very grateful for the Kenyan Government for allowing Somali Refugee temporarily stay at Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, and the UN agencies and donor communities for helping the Somali refugees, but since more refugees are arriving, we appeal to them to increase the humanitarian assistance.

Since December 2010, the average daily cost of food for Somali families has increased between by 20% percent, with areas in the south reporting increases of almost 40 percent. For people already suffering extreme poverty they have no cushion which means they can handle these sorts of increases.

Staple foodstuffs are becoming out of the reach of too many Somalis. Current maize prices in Somalia are now back at the of the food price crisis of 2008. Red sorghum is at record levels and well above the levels of that well-publicised crisis. Back then the world’s attention was focused on the problem.

Today, I am horrified that the world’s attention seems to be absent.

The figures confirm a truly disturbing story. According to the UN’s FAO from January to April 2011, maize prices have risen by 80% in Marka market, the main maize producing southern region of Lower Shabelle, while sorghum prices increased by 50% in Baidoa market, Bay region, located in the Sorghum Belt. In the capital city Mogadishu, prices of maize and sorghum increased over the same period by 70% and 60% respectively.

The World Food Programme have admitted that they’re only able to feed just two thirds of the one million people that need to be fed but they have had to cut the size of the rations. This means the amount of food being given out is only 33% of what should be given out.

We are now in a position to help. The courageous sacrifice of the African Union troops must be met with action from the international agencies. TFG and AMISOM soldiers now control most of Mogadishu city. For that reason of the growing safe zone displaced people are flooding in.

It is thought that some 80% of the city’s population are now in this area. That is an area where international agencies can and should operate. And those people who are escaping the clutches of the brutal regime of the extremists are crying out for help.

AMISOM strives to deliver its mandate to provide emergency humanitarian support but the millions affected in Somalia require a comprehensive, full scale response from those agencies that are best-placed to deliver food, water and shelter to the people on the ground.

At present, I call upon to stand up and applaud the work of the African Union troops as I call on you to recognise the need for action, which is the sole reason that I want you to stand up and welcome the launch today of the Embassy of Somalia Emergency Drought Appeal.

We must act today to stop tomorrow’s catastrophe. Two years ago I saw with my own eyes the plight of Somali people in Dhobley who had been displaced by the conflict and the destruction of their livelihoods, at the same time I noticed the tales of endurance and suffering.

Back then after a similar appeal for support, I had led a team to that southern Somali town that delivered some 20 tonnes of emergency food aid to the people there.

I witnessed the immediate effect on the people there. It was gratifying not only for me to be able to see such a response but also immensely rewarding for all the people who had been so generous in their contributions.

I ask you now, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen, to re-double your efforts and respond to the call to support the people of Somalia.

And the Somali diaspora must have an important role here. The message must be carried far and wide. I ask you to fill the airwaves with this call for support. I know that, though many Somalis have been forced to leave their home land, their home has not left their heart. This Appeal is a way in which Somalis around the world can know that they are giving responsibly, giving to a fund that will have a real, immediate impact on the ground.

Today, I stand in front of you to tell you that real lives are vanishing completely. In Middle and Lower Shabelle, in Qoryoley, Kurtunwarey ,Sablale and other areas through out Somalia our estimate is that over 10,000 families – of men, women and children - have been seriously affected by the current drought. Those remaining in the area are the ones who cannot even afford transport to Mogadishu. Most of those who are dying are children, the elderly, and lactating and pregnant mothers.

As we stand here and celebrate Independence, we must stand by the Somali people. The immediate future for the Somali people is bleak because all too many factors outside their control are coming together to deliver a catastrophe to the Somali people.

Giving to this Emergency Drought Appeal will have a real impact to people on the ground. Now is the time to make sure 2011 is not remembered as the year of tragedy in Somalia. We have a duty to avert the impending calamity. We all have an opportunity to stand by the Somali people - and we must. I thank you all.
Thursday, June 30, 2011 0 comments

Xamar Cadey...I Long For Your Peace!

June 1st is Somalia’s 51st independence anniversary. I wish I was in Mogadishu to witness the funfair as Somalis celebrate their independence. I hope to at least feel at home by attending the celebrations at the Somali embassy in Nairobi later this evening.

I have lived in at least 10 cities in East Africa but I have never seen a city as Mogadishu. Its simplicity, cheap constant supply of sweet fruits, fresh milk and meat and above all its cool evening breeze makes it stand out among the many cities I have ever lived or visited making me long for its peace and my return to a place close to my heart.

Every time I land at the picturesque seaside international airport, I simply long for the old good days when I used to stroll in the sandy beaches of Mogadishu. I remember the beach football we used to play and the great barbeques we enjoyed when the city was peaceful.

Frankly speaking, sometimes I feel Mogadishu is much safer than Nairobi where I live with my family. Of course many people can never believe me but just sample the below and maybe I can convince you.

Unlike major cities across the globe where crimes are so high, in Mogadishu, you will certainly never fear of being mugged or violently robbed as is the case in Nairobi, although I have never experienced such horrendous encounters with the “wagondi”, a Nairobi slung for thugs.

You can also confidently walk with a million dollars in Mogadishu without fear of violently robbed in daylight. This stems out of cultural and Islamic practices meaning robbery cases are very few if none at all.

Life in general is also much cheaper in Mogadishu compared to many capital cities in the world. A whole beach house villa goes for $500 a month in rent! Where can you get such a cheap pleasure surely? Food prices are also very low thanks again to Islamic practices that outlaw hoarding or expecting a 100 percent profit. This helps keep prices of everything affordable to almost everyone.

I can never certainly summarize what Mogadishu has to offer unless you personally experience it.

If you have any reservations wait until I officially launch my tour company Soomal tours that will offer an unbeatable opportunity of touring Somalia and Mogadishu in particular with a promise of a full refund of your costs if you do not fall in love with Mogadishu.

Until then, ciao, and may Mogadishu and Somalia finally get lasting peace.
Sunday, March 27, 2011 0 comments

Abode of hope for Somali women.

Mogadishu, March 27 – Thousands of Somali women some as young as 16 years old have found an abode of hope at a makeshift medical facility jointly run by the African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu and a grassroots women coalition called COGWO offering counseling and free surgical treatment to correct fistula, an abnormal condition that leaves its victims stigmatized and traumatized within their closely-knitted Somali culture.

Fistula is an abnormal condition between the birth canal and the rectum or bladder resulting in uncontrollable passage of urine and/or feces. There are two primary causes of fistula in women in developing countries namely childbirth, causing obstetric fistula and sexual violence, causing traumatic fistula.

Fatuma Aden Maalim who hails from the agricultural-rich central city of Baidoa is one of the minors who has immensely benefited from this programme. She can now afford a smile and has even been employed as a cleaner at the same facility where she does not have to worry about going through the horrendous experience she has been through at the tender age of only 14 when she was married off to a 60 year old man as a second wife.

“I no longer worry about the odor and stigmatization I have gone through for a whole year with fistula which came as a result of the long painful labour and torrid time I unsuccessfully went through trying to deliver my first child at home. I have no words to express my joy after the surgery. I have healed and can now live a normal life. I even have a job as a cleaner here thanks to COGWO and a house too, life is good so far, this place has been an abode of hope for so many women with fistula,” She said with a smile.

Just like many of the other Somali women fistula patients at the fully packed tented hospital, Fatuma was abandoned by her husband whom she did not wish to name. But after word reached him she was well and even prettier from the good care she received at the hospital, she claims he now wants her back.

“He had the audacity to call me and ask if we could reunite again. I told him off and I now fear going home because my parents might force me to go back to him. I have gone through a lot of pain and he never supported me and has never come to see me in hospital,” She added, taking a break from her daily cleaning chores at the hospital together with other young women who have grown through the same traumatic experiences.

According to medical experts fistula is a condition that is preventable. In the case of Somalia it is highly recommended that early expecting mothers must be encouraged to deliver in hospital where fistula can be prevented.

Captain Dr. Niyonzima Pierre Claver is the head of the fistula programme at the peacekeepers hospital in Mogadishu. He says in Somalia, fistula is mostly caused by the long labour pains under-aged girls go through during childbirth and calls upon the Somali women to seek medical help in order to avoid living in dejection and pain.

“As a father and husband I would wish to tell Somali men who have made it a habit to abandon their wives whenever they get fistula to stop being inhuman. In fact just like any other ill person these women badly need you most when they are in that condition. The issue of early childhood marriage would hard to totally eradicate it in a culturally sensitive community like the Somalis but if all expectant mothers can deliver in hospitals fistula would be greatly reduced,” the Burundian doctor said.

Many of the Somali women patients whom were themselves married off between the ages of 13 to 16 consequently suffering from fistula for many years do not see the culture of early childhood marriages declining in Somalia.

Nunay Maaday, 53, who has also been constantly leaking urine for the past 19 years due to fistula says her daughters would be married off before they turn 18 simply because she has no powers to stop their father from doing so.

Unlike other younger women at the clinic, Maaday was never abandoned by her husband. She says she suffered from the fistula after her second birth in 1990 when Somalia was still stable. She was partially treated at Banadir hospital in Mogadishu, the biggest ante-natal hospital in Somalia and was asked to return after few months.

But then the government collapsed before her next appointment was due forcing her to live with the constant urine leakage for 19 years.

“The 19 years of smelling urine all the time and not being able to keep yourself clean was so traumatic. The last thing you need as a woman is to be unclean because cleanliness is in our genes. I can never thank AMISOM and COGWO for the free treatment which I could never have afforded,” Maaday said, looking at ease and happy.
Friday, March 25, 2011 0 comments

Hand grenade attack on Al-Shabaab

Mogadishu, March 25 - An unknown assailant hurled a hand grenade at Al-Shabaab fighters at a checkpoint in the Elesha Biyaha IDP camp outside the Somali capital late on Thursday killing at least 3 fighters and wounding 5 others in the first known grenade attack against the notorious militants in the Horn of African country.

Al-Shabaab militants immediately cordoned off the area and started arresting people on sight. Elesha Biyaha is the biggest IDP camp with tens of thousands of displaced families many of who fled from the capital Mogadishu. The area was initially controlled by the now dysfunctional Hizbul islam fighters who amalgamated into Al-Shabaab earlier this year.

Sources claim the grenade might have been thrown by jittery former militias of Hizbul Islam who are not happy with Al-Shabaab taking all the taxes they collect from trucks at the checkpoint.

"This is the first time for Al-Shabaab to have been attacked in Elesha Biyaha. People hate them here mainly because of their barbarism. If there is anywhere in Somalia where civilians will probably take arms against Al-Shabaab its here. I saw three dead Al-Shabaab fighters carried from the scene of the blast while 5 others were seriously wounded. I was peeping from my window as soon as I heard the blast," said an IDP who lives close to the checkpoint and who only gave his name as Abdi for fear of reprisal.

The militant group which has ties to Al-Qaeda is engaged in a bloody war with Somalia government forces supported by African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi. In the recent weeks and months Al-Shabaab has lost strategic locations in Mogadishu including Gaashandiga, the former Defence headquarters of Somalia which was the groups command base in Mogadishu and a major logistical hub.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011 0 comments

The big catch for peace in Somalia.

By Guled Mohamed

Mogadishu, February 23 – AMISOM peacekeepers from Burundi and Somali government forces have jointly captured three strategic locations in northwestern Mogadishu in a major operation that has startled Al-Shabaab in the latest of many losses for the anti-peace elements in the going battles for the control of the troubled capital city of Somalia.

The joint operation swiftly carried out early on Wednesday morning resulted in the capture of the imposing former Defence headquarters building locally known as Gashaandiga, a former milk factory and the former Senior Officer club also known as Shirkole Officiale. The imposing former Defence headquarters building served as the main Al-Shabaab operational and logistical hub where they planned their inhuman attacks.

“Government troops supported by AU Peacekeepers have this morning captured tactical headquarters of the extremist insurgents. Troops from AMISOM’s Burundi contingent helped Somali National Forces take the former Ministry of Defence (Gaashaandhigga), which the extremists have been using as a logistical and operational base. They also captured the former Milk Factory and the Military Officers Club (Shirkole Officiale) in a major advance in the northwestern part of the city,” said a statement from the Somalia Ministry of Information.

The three strategic positions are located in Hodan district along the main road used by Al-Shabaab from their main Daynile base further in the northwest of the capital Mogadishu. The Defence headquarters is located on a hill top directly overlooking the city of Mogadishu and which made it easy for the extremist to hull mortars towards the densely populated areas of the sea side city controlled by the government with help from African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi.

Shirkole Officiale is directly adjacent to the expansive Bakara market which is another hideout for the extremist known to use the population as a human shield in their bloody quest to unnecessarily shed more blood in an unholy war that is opposed by majority of the people in Mogadishu where more civilians than combatants die in the almost daily deadly gun duels.

“Today’s operation is meant to create more security and space for the peace-loving population of Mogadishu. The 3 captured locations are very strategic spots and a major loss for the extremists. The joint operation encountered minimal resistances by the extremists just like recent successes AMISOM and the government has had in Wardhigley district where we exposed huge tunnels dug by the opposition forces and where they lost many fighters including 6 foreign militants,” AMISOM Spokesman Major Ba-Hoku Barigye said.

Speaking from the captured positions Colonel Floribert Biyereke, the Burundi Contingent Public Information Officer said the extremists were still firing from a distance towards the Somali-Burundian forces in a futile attempt to unsettle the victorious joint forces.

“As you can hear there is still fighting going on as the insurgents are firing towards our newest locations we have jointly captured with Somali forces and which are Gashandiga, milk factory and Shirkole officiale. We are now strengthening our defenses and we will not be deterred by their desperate attempts to unsettle us. Our expansion is always for the good of the afflicted Somali population because whichever locations AMISOM occupies we normally open a hospital and also shares our little food and water with the suffering population. The operation was a success and we wish to thank our Somali brothers for their continued support,” Colonel Biyereke said as sounds of bullets and heavy explosion reverberated in the background.

The latest military success by the government and peacekeepers from Burundi has been welcomed by the war-weary residents of Mogadishu many of who have been forced by the ongoing battles to flee their homes in their tens of thousands and to live in squalid camps across the bullet-pocked city.

“This is a big catch for peace in Mogadishu and Somalia. I am so happy to hear that government forces and AMISOM peacekeepers have taken over Gashaandiga, Shirkole officiale and the former milk factory. This is really good news for us because it means these areas will be peaceful and my clients can now access my shop. Peace is what we always yearn for and I wish to urge our troops and our friends from AMISOM to kick out these bloodletting Al-Shabab extremists who have no intention to bring peace but only chaos and death to our people,” shopkeeper Salah Ali said whose shop is located in Hodan district close to the captured locations.

Nostalgic memories of Burundian officers trained in Somalia

By Guled Mohamed

Bujumbura, February 14 - In April 1974, a military plane landed in Mogadishu's main airport flying in 15 junior Burundian officers arriving for a two year pilot and aero technician’s course offered by the once powerful Somali air force.

Speaking for the first time in thirty five years since their memorable training in the sea side city, the now retired Burundian officers showed remorse in the current turmoil in Somalia and in particular the capital Mogadishu where they were trained as pilots by Somali air force personnel.

The 15 officers were transformed into 12 pilots and 3 aero mechanics after a two year long training that ended in June 1976 at a time when Somalia was a mighty African military superpower in the height of General Mohamed Siyad Bare’s scientific socialist Somalia.

Retired Colonel Emmanuel Bankimbaga and Charles Ntakije are among the 10 surviving officers from the original 15 Burundian officers trained by the now dysfunctional Somali air force. The two were trained as pilots together with 10 others making them the first biggest number of pilots to be trained for Burundi by any nation. Before their training the small country had only 3 pilots trained in France and Egypt.

The 15 officers distinctively served their country Burundi in various capacities to the ranks of colonels and held senior public positions as technocrats and chief of staffs. There is even a former Interior Minister amongst them.

The Burundian officers we were trained at a military installation called Afsiyoni near Mogadishu airport from April 1974 to June 1976. The airport they landed at 35 years ago is now secured by the African Union peacekeepers that includes close to 4000 Burundian peacekeepers who are in Somalia as part of AMISOM which is helping the once great nation attain peace following two decades of war that has left the country in ruins.

"The training was excellent and it was conducted by Somali officers who worked with us with a lot of professionalism until we became pilots. I wish to congratulate the Somali government on this 51st commemoration day of its air force and wish that what they lost during the war and conflict they are going to recover and build another stronger and better air force," retired Colonel Emmanuel Bankimbaga said in Bujumbura recently a day before the 51st Somali Air Force day was commemorated on 15 February.

Asked what he remembers of Mogadishu, Emmanuel painted a very lively city whose residents were very hospitable. He says they used to go for evening coffee at the Café National restaurant in downtown Mogadishu before hitting the various nightspots Mogadishu offered many of which were located along the beautiful shore of the Indian Ocean.

"The most memorable things I still remember about Mogadishu were the coffee shops, discothèques and restaurants. I had so many friends and the people were really nice. What really caught me was how nationalistic the Somalis were. They were no clan differences and everyone was a Somali," he said with a smile.

His compatriot retired Colonel Charles Ntakije who once served as Burundi's Interior minister still remembers when in 1975 he read a speech in Somali language that he wrote on behalf of the Burundi team to mark Somali air force day.

He says Mogadishu was a paradise and that they spent many lovely evenings with civilian and military friends. His best friend was a Somali artist called Matan who owned a studio and who used to claim to be Jesus whenever he was drunk.

"On Friday’s, our Somali friends used to call us and say in Somali: Caawa waa Jimce, Jazeera club ma aadeynaa? Meaning, it’s Friday night, are we going to Jazeera club? Mogadishu was the place to be then. We spoke Somali and I could even write. In fact I wrote my speech in Somali which I presented in February 1975 to mark Somali Air Force day. Life was really good then in Mogadishu," Ntakije said with a grin.

The officers said they met President Siad Barre on numerous occasions at his residence in Afisiyoni air force headquarters where they were being trained. During there time in Somalia they managed to visit Kismayu, Baidoa and Galkaayo which they oftenly flew into as part of their training to fly military planes.

"We used to play basketball with the Somali air force team. President Siad Barre used to come and watch the games. He would freely mingle with the players and we spoke to him about our country as well as the training. He told me once if you have any problem please came straight to me. Of course we had no complaints because we were treated really well," Emmanuel added.

Emmanuel got an opportunity to welcome Barre and his entourage in Bujumbura when the former Somali leader visited Burundi for a French-African cooperation meeting in the early 80's. Emmanuel was nominated President's Barre head of security.

"When President Siyad Barre came to Bujumbura in 1984 I was nominated to head his security detail and his guide. He stayed at this same Souse de Nile hotel you are now staying which was then called The Meridian hotel. After the meetings I used to sit and drink coffee with him. He did not see me an as his bodyguard but as friend. It was good for me to host him back in my country," Emmanuel said.

After there first year in Somalia the government flew home the Burundian contingent on a military plane for the 1974 Christmas break and again brought them back to Mogadishu for their last year of training. Colonel Ntakije says he has but good memories of Somalia and was really saddened to see the country collapse in 1991.

"We are now retired and each one of us is pursuing his own private businesses. If Somalia needs our experience we will be very happy to offer any technical assistance. We are able for example to help restructure the army because that is what we can easily do for Somalia because without security the country cannot properly function. It is so sad to hear the city has been destroyed. I believe the Somalis will one day rise and restore their dignity, “ Ntakije said.

Just to prove to you the duo spend some good time in Somalia they can easily recite the famous socialist oriented song meant to praise President Siyad Barre. As a Somali born in Kenya I had no clue of the song until I heard it from the Burundians.

“Guul wadow Siyaad aabihi garashada geygayagow hantiwadagu waa habka barwaaqada noo horseeday…meaning Victorious Siyad our knowledgeable father our land socialism is the system that brought us prosperity,” The former Burundian Officers separately recited the song to the end for the first time in 35 years much to my own amazement at their sharp memory.

After his interview, Charles shouted to me before driving away “Soomaaliya hanoolato,” to mean Somalia, live longer which is a very common slogan Somalis say whenever get patriotic!

Fighting and dining with the enemy.

By Guled Mohamed

February 22 – Mohamed Ibrahim rose from an ordinary Al-Shabab fighter to a field commander within 2 years which saw him spend days and nights in the jungles and abandoned buildings across Somalia fighting, living and dining alongside wanted foreign terrorists including two of the current Al-Qaeda chiefs in Somalia.

Mohamed who goes around by his nickname Suley meaning missing a thumb in Somali because he burnt one of his thumbs learning to plant remote controlled roadside bombs in Mogadishu says he has been living and fighting along the likes of Abu Mansuur Al-Amriki better known as Omar Hammami from the US town of Daphne in Alabama who is the Deputy Al-Qaeda commander in Somalia and Fadhil Mohamed Abdallah, the top man for the global jihadists in Somalia who hails from Comoros.

During his four years stint as an Al-Shabab fighter which he recently decamped after being shot from close range by a foreign Arab fighter in one of the many frontlines in Somalia for questioning a gruesome murder of his elder civilian brother in Kismayu whose throat was slit by an Al-Shabab hit squad on suspicion of spying for his clansmen fighting to oust the extremists from the southern Somali port city of Kismayu.

In the recent past, he says the going has been tough for the revered group with imminent fallout within its top leadership over their cruelty towards civilian populations. The group has made a name out of chopping off limbs of suspect thugs and assassinations of innocent people who refuse to join them as well as other more callous acts like slitting throats of suspected spies.

Receiving a paltry $60 per month as salary with 10 days of leave every month, Ibrahim gave a chilling account of his association with a group he now believes have nothing to do with Islam.

“I was a field commander in charge of 90 young men in Bondere frontline. My men included Somalis, young Kenyan non-Somalis and Eritrean. Al-Amriki, the American Al-Qaeda 2nd in Command in Somalia is always in the frontline visiting Al-Shabaab fighters. I have fought and dined and spend days and nights with him together with so many other foreign fighters. The top commander Fadhil from Comoros never visits the frontlines. He lives in the livestock market in Mogadishu and I have also seen him so many times,” Ibrahim said.

He survived death by a whisker from the close range bullet intended to permanently silence him for voicing a concern over his brother’s death. That is when he realized he was along fighting and dining with the enemy.

“The bullet pierced through my left bicep travelling just under the skin across my back before popping out from the right shoulder. When they slit my brother’s throat and nearly killed me in cold blood I realized I was in the wrong place and planned my escape. All this time I was dining and fighting with an enemy I never knew. Since my escape I have helped 20 fighters decamp from Al-Shabaab and I hope to help many more because the heaven they promise people is a lie. There is no jihad in Somalia, it is a fallacy” Mohamed said pointing at the healed bullet wound on his back.

He secretly hatched an escape plan together with four of his colleagues. On December 16 their plot succeeded when they finally defected to the government after the President and the Prime Minister gave a 100 day amnesty to Al-Shabaab fighters who would switch sides.

“I planned my escape for 4 months. It was very difficult because I knew as soon as Al-Shabaab finds out I was a dead man. It was 4 months of fear. I am lucky my status as a field commander helped me to easily escape. The atrocities I have witnessed in my 4 years with Al-Shabaab are so gruesome giving me all the reason to leave,” he added.

And to make things even easier for his final escape, he saw first hand how wounded accomplices were dealt with by foreign fighters who call the shots within Al-Shabaab.

“Al-Shabaab has become so ruthless that it even kills its soldiers who are seriously wounded in the many battles in Mogadishu. They shoot them because they have no enough hospitals or money to treat them. What pains me most is seeing very young boys brainwashed to fight and then abandoned or killed when they are seriously hurt. Joining Al-Shabaab is easy but getting out is impossible. I thank God I left and will never ever take part in any of their un-Islamic activities again,” He said looking relaxed.
Sunday, January 23, 2011 0 comments

Pay day in Mogadishu frontlines.

By Guled Mohamed

Mogadishu, January 21 – It is always sweet to receive your dues after a hard work and that is the feeling among Somalia’s military officers who recently received their stipends for their-much needed efforts to protect the government and civilian populations against an onslaught by the ruthless Al-Shabab insurgents.

At least 8000 soldiers received $100 each in a peaceful exercise that lasted for 10 days from 29th December to 7th January 2011 and which was overseen by AMISOM and coordinated by IGAD under the watchful eye of Colonel Dido Rasso from Kenya and his team who were reporting to the AMISOM Force Commander Major General Nathan Mugisha who in turn played the crucial role of linking the team with the donors and Somali government.

In a bid to end months of anxiety and prevent any double payments all the soldiers were paid from their positions in the many frontlines in Mogadishu in order to help the government ascertain the exact number of its forces so that it can better address the many challenges facing the embattled force.

AMISOM Force Commander Major General Nathan Mugisha hailed the team for a job well done and called upon the donors urging them to continue assisting the Somali government to ensure soldiers get their stipends and in future their pay on monthly basis just like any other stable country in the world.

“The Somali soldiers are playing a crucial role in safeguarding their country and people. It is therefore only fair for them to get their dues in regular basis in order to give them an impetus to continue protecting their nation. The payment team and the Somali government both worked tremendously hard to make sure each soldier gets his deserved share. AMISOM will always continue to support the Somali people and the government as required by its mandate,”

Colonel Rasso said that the payment was conducted in the government-controlled districts of Bondere, Shangani, Wadajir, Hodan, HamarJajab, Dharkenlay and Waberi. Three teams went round all the military bases to pay-off the government forces.

Each soldier was required to append his or her signature on the payment rooster to confirm receipt of the stipend. Those who received their dues included wounded soldiers hurt in the line of duty. Many others died protecting their nation from callous insurgents with ties to Al-Qaeda.

Some of the hot spot positions where the team visited included Juba hotel, Uruba hotel, Shangaalaha, Hosh and Tarbuunka where the team had to sometimes dodge bullets and pay in the midst of heavy battles.

“The exercise was a success and it has given us an insight into the TFG military which will go a long way to better streamline the force and harmonize their pay system. This was the main reason why we had to oversee the exercise. I believe the government will see the fruits of the exercise soon. I wish to thank AMISOM Force Commander, the military leadership and the Minister of Defence for their cooperation and vision which made it easy for us to pay the deserving soldiers their little dues in the many frontline positions,” Colonel Rasso said.

The paid soldiers were simply elated and hope their dues would be regular. They also promised to diligently work for their country and warned the opposition forces to prepare for the worst now that their morale is high. The pay also enforced discipline as some soldiers who used to abscond their duty are now reportedly clutching on their rifles already defending their country hoping they will now get their dues regularly.

“I am so happy because I can now at least pay my debts. We have waited for this day for so long. The government must ensure we get our arrears and our future salary is paid in time so that we can also feed our families. We will continue to fight for our country and protect our people because that is what is expected of us as the military,” TFG Liaison Officer Lieutenant Issa Mohamed said.