Saturday, November 17, 2018

Turmoil blocks aid as communal conflict rages in gold-seamed Benishangul-Gumuz

Due to insecurity, aid cannot reach more than 50,000 people displaced by conflict that may be related to a long-existing struggle over resources in Benishangul-Gumuz.
Ongoing violence that first flared in late September around the state’s disputed border with Oromia has also led to more than 150,000 Oromo fleeing their homes, who are receiving only limited assistance. Some members of the Gumuz community say they will be killed if they cross the regional boundary.
The critical humanitarian situation is the third on Oromia’s peripheries after similar outbreaks of violence with communities in Somali state and the Gedeo people in the multi-ethnic southern region. That has led to 2.2 million Ethiopians internally displaced by conflict, which included the highest number in the world in the first half of this year.
There are 57,000 mostly indigenous Benishangul-Gumuz people sheltering at camps in Kamashi and Oda zones, which aid groups can’t reach because of instability. “Due to continuing security concerns in Benishangul-Gumuz region, only government, with an armed escort, was able to provide a one-time humanitarian assistance to IDPs in the two zones,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Nov. 11. “The unprecedented violence that started in Kamashi zone on 26 September and continued through October and November forced the most vulnerable groups (women, children and the elderly) to flee with no personal belongings, including clothing.”
Only government, with an armed escort, was able to provide aid
Although the regional governments reached an agreement to restore peace, clashes are ongoing and the inter-regional road is closed. In recent weeks, witnesses reported that a Gumuz individual and two Oromo were killed in Yaso Woreda and two Gumuz, two Amhara and an unconfirmed number of Oromo died in Belo Jegonfoy Woreda.
The turmoil is centered on Kamashi, which is the southernmost chunk of Benishangul-Gumuz and is surrounded by Oromia on three sides. The regional state is the homeland of the Berta, Gumuz, Shinasha, Komo and Mao, as well as significant populations of native Amharic and Oromo speakers. In a 2007 census in Kamashi, out of a population of 101,000, Gumuz comprised 61,000, Oromo 25,000 and Amhara 11,000.
The territory that is now Kamashi was in Wollega province before Ethiopia was restructured in 1991. It is primarily home to Gumuz who used to live in the Didessa area of Oromia and belong to a fragmented community that has been victims of slave raids for centuries, according to a research paper. The regional border is not properly demarcated and there have been sporadic outbreaks of violence over the last two decades over administrative power and resources such as sand and bamboo, said another academic study.

Golden prospects

The area comprising Benishangul-Gumuz formally became part of Ethiopia under the terms of a Nile-focused 1902 treaty signed by Emperor Menelik II with Great Britain, which ruled Sudan. Under Ethiopia’s 1995 federal constitution, the region is autonomous and administered by locals, which was not the case under the Derg military regime or Emperor Haile Selassie.
Deposits of gold drove expansion into the area in the mid-19th century by the Egyptian rulers of Sudan and by Menelik’s armies in the late 1890s, wrote Ethiopian historian Bahru Zewde in his 1976 doctorate. “Gold was the overriding pre-occupation of the conquerors, and their entire administrative and military machinery was geared towards the speedy acquisition of as much of the precious commodity as possible,” he wrote about the Egyptians.
Australia-based Berta activist Khalid Nasser claims that indigenous people have historically been denied access to ancestral land, which has been settled and farmed by outsiders, and that Ethiopia’s most powerful groups have always had designs on the region. “Historically Benishangul is a Sudanese land that was abandoned due to lack of responsibility and patriotism. Now there is a big rivalry between Amhara, Oromo and Tigray, which is making the people of Benishangul suffer tremendously,” he said.

Berta girl mining alluvial gold; Nov. 2013; Owen Morgan
A researcher who has worked in the area thinks the root cause of the latest unrest might be competition for the rich resources of the area, which includes deposits of marble, coal, emerald, platinum, as well as fertile farmland and large gold reserves. “We need your land not you,” a witness claimed they had heard from Oromo. However, the researcher said much of the agricultural investment in Kamashi is by Gumuz elites.
The promising Tulu Kapi mine operated by Kefi Minerals is in West Wollega, while surveying has shown there are high quality gold deposits in Benishangul-Gumuz. They may amount to more than 400 tons of the precious metal in what is a cost-efficient mining location, said Owen Morgan, the former Chief Operating Officer of GP Resource Mining, which explored a concession in the area from 2011 until 2015. Ethiopia’s annual gold exports are currently around 15 tons. “The Benishangul-Gumuz deposits are not going to put it in the world’s top 10 locations, but they would put it in the top 40. The gold potential in the region is fantastic, and the deposits are shallow, it’s not deep mining,” Morgan said.
The license for Ethiopia’s only commercial gold mine at Lega Dembi in East Guji Zone of Oromia was suspended in May after protests over pollution. The mine is operated by Midroc Gold, which is owned by Ethiopian-born Saudi billionaire Mohamed al-Amoudi, who is thought to be still under house arrest in Riyadh. Midroc Gold has been preparing to mine gold from a concession in the Sudan-bordering Metekel Zone of Benishangul-Gumuz, the location of the troubled Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Evolving conflict

The first major incident in Benishangul-Gumuz that evolved into the serious violence occurred in Assosa, the regional capital, on June 28. Berta youths demonstrated demanding the release of militia that had been kidnapped weeks before, allegedly by rebels affiliated with the Oromo Liberation Front, a former designated terrorist group that was legalized in June by Ethiopia’s parliament.
After days of Berta protests, which included looting and robbery, others organized against them. Clashes intensified, pitting lighter skinned ‘highlanders’ against darker indigenous people, and several were killed and injured, according to witnesses.
Two weeks later, a senior commander of Benishangul-Gumuz special police from Mao-Komo Special Woreda was shot dead by armed men as he returned back from a public discussion on security issues, and an Ethiopian military colonel was killed, according to Kamashi officials.

Part of the GP Resource Mining concession; 2012; Owen Morgan
Further problems occurred with Oromo youth from Kiltu Kara Woreda of West Wollega Zone. According to witnesses, they raided Benishangul-Gumuz’s Sirba-Abbay Wereda Shawa Kebele and killed the administrator. Residents retaliated and a number of people were injured and killed from both sides.
To try and resolve the problems, Benishangul-Gumuz’s police commissioner and Oromia’s anti-corruption head reportedly met in Asossa from Sep. 24 to Sep. 25. After the meeting, both Kamashi and West Wollega administrators went to Mandi town the next day to discuss with Oromo displaced from Shawa Kebele about returning home, an official said.
Kamashi officials said they agreed on the process for resettling farmers from both sides. As the leaders were returning, they were stopped at a checkpoint on the Kamashi-Ghimbi road near Maqqi Billa. Although they were asked to get out, they initially refused, as there were two armed men by the side of the road. However, zonal police commander Geremew Golja left the car and begged the militia to release them. They refused and fired at them instead. Four died and four escaped by running into the bush, witnesses said.

Villages attacked

Geremew, Matiyos Banda, the Kamashi Woreda chief administrator, and two police officers were killed, a witness said. Geshile Dinbesha, Kamashi Zone deputy chief administrator and Banti Abashu, zone security head, Jermosa Daro and Gashu Sima escaped and were collected by soldiers.
After the incident, Kamashi was said to be calm until Oromo militia reportedly attacked eight villages in Belo Jegonfoy, Yaso, Kamashi and Agalo woredas. Gumuz then retaliated, according to locals.
The number of Oromo deaths is uncertain, but Ethiopia Insight received multiple testimonieslast month from displaced Oromo of systemic attacks by groups of Gumuz youth backed by local officials that forced them from their homes. They said the violence occurred in reaction to the road ambush, not after the alleged Oromo raids. The UN reported last month that at least 20 people reportedly died, without specifying where.
In the week after the Billaa ambush, two Berta soldiers returning home for their break were reportedly executed in Nedjo in West Wollega. More than 40 Gumuz and Berta may have been killed, including 28 from a kebele administered by Sasiga Woreda in East Wollega, according to local sources. Eight Gumuz died in Agalometi, Yaso, and Sedal woredas, they said.
Two Berta soldiers returning home were executed
A researcher who has worked in the area said the road to Kamashi has now been closed for more than a month. OCHA reported that in the second half of October emergency food and medicine had to be helicoptered into the zone. As well as inter-regional fighting, there has also been violence between Oromia’s government and an OLF faction, partly over the fate of its armed wing. There are hopes this will now ease after a Nov. 14 agreement.
Some locals say there has generally been friendly relations between highlanders and lowlanders in Benishangul-Gumuz, strengthened by inter-ethnic marriages and economic and social ties. However, tensions have been heightened in recent years and Gumuz people were afraid to stay in Oromia in 2013 to 2015, according to the researcher. “When I was there in August this year, old ladies and kids threw rocks at our car as we drove through the Oromo communities along the border on the way from Kamashi to Nekemte,” they said.
Ibro Mohammed Abdi, 65, a representative for displaced Oromo at a camp in Kersa Mojo, said he fled a border area after 100 houses were burned by Gumuz around Balo Asir in the latest episode of regular violence.  “They slaughtered many people and now they started burning our houses, killing our people, and displacing us. They always start a fight at harvest time to rob our farms when we run away,” he said.
Query or correction? Email us
‘Mistir Sew’ is based in Assosa
Additional reporting by Ermias Tasfaye
Main photo: People in Uke, Guto Gida Woreda, West Wollega Zone displaced by Kamashi conflict; Nov. 13; Ermias Tasfaye

Eritrea Comes in from the Cold!

World Politics Review posted on 16 November 2018 a commentary titled "With U.N. Sanctions on Eritrea Lifted, a Pariah State Comes in from the Cold" by Elliot Waldman.

The author suggests that the lifting of UN sanctions on Eritrea will help restore its image but have little additional impact. The sanctions were narrowly tailored and laxly enforced. Hence, their disappearance will not make much difference.  

In a sign of rapidly changing geopolitical dynamics in the Horn of Africa, the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to lift sanctions against Eritrea. The move comes amid a rapid thaw in Eritrea’s relations with neighboring Ethiopia and Somalia. The leaders of all three countries met for a rare summit in September, raising hopes for broader regional cooperation.

In a further sign of detente, Somalia and Ethiopia advocated at the U.N. for the sanctions to be lifted, strengthening Eritrea’s case. The sanctions, which included an arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban on Eritrean officials, were first imposed nine years ago for the Eritrean government’s alleged support for terrorist groups like al-Shabab. According to Awet Weldemichael, a professor of African history and politics at Queen’s University in Canada, the underlying evidence for this support was never convincing, but that did not stop the sanctions from being weaponized by Eritrea’s erstwhile enemies. ...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015




Qalinkii Suleiman Ismail Bolaleh

Sida uu ii xaqiijiyay Madaxa IT-ga Waaxda Socdaalka Somaliland Seddex Xidigle Mr. Kimiko "Waxa maanta (shalay) ciladi gashay mashiinkii macluumaadka galinayay jaldiga Baasaaboorka cusub ee E-Passport, sidaasi darteed inkasta oo aan kula balamay maanta in aad qaadato Baasaaboorkiigaa cusbaa hadana dhibaatadaasi ayaa dhacday waana nasiibkaa" ayuu igu yidhi Seddex Xidigle Kimiko. Waxan su'aalay cilada xiliga la saarayo waxanu madaxa IT-ga Waaxda Socdaalku iigu jawaabay in gacanta lagu hayo balse aanu garan karin xiliga ay qaadan doonto.

Dhawrkii maalmood ee ugu dambeeyay oo aan ku noqnoqonayay xarunta Waaxda Socdaalka Somaliland, waxa kale oo aan indhahayga ku arkayay ceebo badan oo ku lamaan adeega ay muwaadiniintu u doontaan Waaxda Socdaalka Somaliland.

Dadkan Baasaabooka Cusub ee Somaliland E-Passport u doonta Xafiiska Waaxda Socdalka Somaliland ayaa u badan qaar qaba xanuuno adadag oo dalka gudihiisa lagu dabiibi kari waayay iyo xubnaha qoyasaskooda ee sii kaxaynaya, kuwaasi oo 99% u safraya dalka Itoobiya gaar ahaan caasimadiisa Adis Abbaba.

Nasiibdarada aan ku arkay Waaxda Socdaalka ayaa ah in dadkaasi lagu kala fadilo wajigarasho, iyo qaraabo kiil. Dadka qaar qadar miridho ah oo aan saacad gaarin ayay ku qaadataa in ay helaan Baasaaboorka cusub ee Somaliland E-Passport, halka qaarkoodana 2 maalin oo kali ah ayay ku qaadataan, tusaale sida 2 muwaadin oo aanu shalay codsiyadayada baasaaboorka cusub wada xaraynay ayaa si ay u qaataan isla shalayba waxay ii sheegeen in ay u soo kaxaysteen gabadh ka mid ah shaqaalaha Madaxtooyada oo aanan jeclayn in aan magaceeda halkan ka xuso balse maxkamad horteed aan ka cadayn doono, waxana u suurto gashay in isla markiiba iyaga la siiyo labadoodii baasaaboor.

Sida qaalibka ah kuyuuga dadka bukaanka ah ee doonaya Baasaaboorka cusub ma galaan dadka garanaya mid ka mid ah madaxda Waaxda Socdaalka Somaliland iyaga si toos ah ayaa loo galiyaa gudaha loo sawiraa kadibna sida ugu dhaqsaha badan ayay u qaataan baasaaboorka. Halka inta ugu badan Muwaadiniinta Somaliland ee adeega u doonta Waaxda Socdaalka Somaliland ay ku qaadato ugu yaraan 7 maalmood in ay ka helaan Baasaaboorka cusub ee Somaliland.

Dhinaca kale waxa layaab igu noqday ciladaha ku yimid Mashiinkan cusub ee lagu sameeyo Somaliland new E-Passport iyadoo dhawaan ay ahayd markii dalka la keenay qalabka cusub ee Baasaaboorka cusub lagu sameeyo iyadoo uu xadhiga ka jaray Madaxwaynaha Somaliland Mudane Axmed Maxamed Maxamuud 'Siilaanyo'.

Dadka dhaliila xukuumada Madaxwayne Siilaanyo ayaa farta ku fiiqeen in dad gaar ah lagu naasnuujiyay soo iibinta qalabka cusub ee Mashiinada iyo Qalabka lagu samaynayo Baasaaboorka cusub ee Somaliland E-Passort, kuwaasi oo ay yiraahdeen xataa shirkad ganacsi oo hore ma ay lahayn balse markii ay qandaraaskaasi xukuumadu siiyay ayay samayteen shirkad cusub.

Inkasta shaqsiyan aanan hubinin jiritaanka dhaliishaasi, balse ciladaha degdega u fadhiisiyay Mashiinadii cusub ee malaayiinka dollar la soo siiyay ayaa daaha ka faydaya in tayadoodu aad u liidatay markeedii horeba.

Dadwaynaha Somaliland ee Waaxda Socdaalka Somaliland u soo doonta Baasaabooradan Cusub ayaa lagu qiyaasaa in ay yihiin in ka yar 3% muwaadiniinta dalka, markaa Mashiinada xumaaday iyagoo tiradaaasi yar ee baasaaboorada ah lagu sameeyay waxa taasi daliil u tahay in aan cidi ka hubinin soo iibintii iyo keenistii dalka qalabka E-Passports-ka lagu sameeyo.

Anigu waxa igaga baxday Lacag adag oo gaaraysa $200 in aan samaysto new Somaliland E-Passort, inkastoo aan hore u haystay Baasaaboor Soomaali aan ka soo qaatay dhawr sano ka hor Garoowe oo ay igaga baxday $100. Damiirkayga ayaa igu khasbay in aan xogtan la wadaago shacabka iyo masuuliyiinta Qaranka Somaliland, xataa haddii ay madaxda Socdaalka Somaliland cadho ka kaci doonta qoraalkaygan iigu diidaan Baasaaboorka aan xaqa dastuuriga ah u leeyahay ama dib u dhac intaa hadda ka badan igu sameeyaan.

Ciil maan qabeen haddii ay saraakiisha iyo hawlwadeenada Waaxda Socdaalka Somaliland ay u wada jajaban yihiin haweenka, balse taasi bedelkeeda maalmo yar oo kooban ayaan ku ogaaday cida hawl si fudud uga dhamayn karta xafiiskaasi in ay yihiin haweenka da'da yar ee marka ay xafiiskaasi tagayaan aad isku sii qurxiya siina gashada labisyo qurxoon. Bal ogow waalidka hooyooyinka iyo ayeeyoonka ah ee xanuunsanaya oo ah kuwa ugu badan ee adeega xafiiska Socdaalka u soo doonta iyaga indhaha Saraakiisha iyo Hawlwadeenada Waaxda Socdaalka Somaliland ma arkaan sida ay ugu raxleeyaan kuwaa aan soo xusay uguma raxleeyaan balse hadalo qalafsan ayay u gaystaan.

Haddii aad tagto Xarunta Guud ee Waaxda Socdaalka Somaliland oo aad hawl kaaga xidhan awgeed labo seddex maalmood aad ku noqnoqoto muwaadin adba waad ila arki arimahan aan sheegay dhamaantood ama qaarkood haddii aan Qaadiru RAXMAANKU quluubta wiilasheenaa inoo soo xoolo barkhadayn.

Saaka ayay ahayd mar uu telefoonka igala soo hadlay nin suxufiya oo ay dugisga Shaqaalaha Dawlada wada dhigtaan Sarkaalka IT-ga u qaabilsan Waaxda Socdaalka Somaliland Mr. Kimiko shalay galinkii danbe u sheegay in aan saaka ahaan ku kalaho xafiiska Socdaalka si aan u soo qaato Baasaaboorkii aan maalmahanba ka sugayay waxanan abaaro 8:30 subaxnimo ugu tagay xarunta Waaxda Socdaalka Somaliland markiiba waxan la kulmay wiilka dheemanta u ah dadka baasaaboorada doonaya ee lagu magacaabo KIMIKO kaasi oo ii sheegay baasaabooradii xalay la daabacay in ay la yaalaan Taliyaha Waaxda Socdaalka Somaliland ina Cambaro si uu u saxeexo.

Mudo ku dhow 2 saacadood ayaan xafiiska uu fadhiyo aan dul taagnaa waxa xafiiska ku wehelinayay Taliyaha Hawlgalinta Ciidanka Booliska mudadaasi taliyaha Ina Cambaro dadkii u galay isagoo dagaalansan ayuu dib u soo celinayay balse waxa uu si fiican u qaabilay 2 hablood oo aanan jeclayn halkan in aan ku sheego magacyadooda kuwaasi oo adeega ay u doonteen uu ahaa in ay helaan foormka macluumaadka uu ku qoro ruuxa Baasaaboor cusub doonayaa maalinta koowaad ee uu yimaado Xarunta Waaaxda Socdaalka Somaliland.

Qalinkii Suleiman Ismail Bolaleh

Monday, March 2, 2015

International Community is misleading Somaliland

Republic of Somaliland is not breaking away region of Somalia, as the international community see, instead Somaliland declared independence on 26/6/1960 from Britain and more than 30 countries recognizes as new an independent government.
Independent Republic of Somaliland united with Somalia (UN Trusteeship of Somalia) to form Somali Republic on 01/07/1960. A delusional ideology of uniting all Somali-speaking ethnic groups, in horn of Africa, led to such unity due to a political enthusiasm. Somaliland is withdrawing from the above union with Somalia.
On 18th May 1991, the people of Somaliland announce rebirth of Republic of Somaliland, as an independent nation, which is not new as similar separation of nations took place between Pakistan and Bangladesh or Syria and Egypt. Somaliland is withdrawing from failed state of Somalia, while Bangladesh retrieved from an active state Pakistan.
This is a political, not a legal problem. The original charter of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) contains no explicit reference to borders although it does underscore respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states. The second OAU summit in Cairo in 1964 passed a resolution that contained the following language in the preamble: “the borders of African States, on the date of their independence, constitute a tangible reality.” Even more significant for Somaliland, Article 4 of the Constitutive Act of the African Union signed on June 12, 2000, in Lome, Togo, states that the African Union shall function in accordance with the following principle: “respect of borders existing on achievement of independence.” On the basis of its brief independence from June 26 until July 1, 1960, Somaliland meets the definition contained in the resolution passed in Cairo in 1964 and the Constitutive Act of the African Union signed in 2000.
The Mogadishu administration, and its henchmen, claim possibility of people who believe unity with Somalia in Somaliland. In 2001, Somaliland authorities organized, under independent observers from EU and AU, referendum where 97% of the population voted for ‘YES’ for withdrawing from 1960 unity with Somalia. For example, Montenegro gained its independence with only 55.5% in favor of self-determination.
The people of Somaliland reconstructed their country, after Somalia military and air-force destroyed Somaliland’s major cities during 1988 public upraising against Siyad Barre government in Mogadishu, in which more than 50,000 people killed. Somaliland developed a unique and one of the best democracies at horn of Africa, in addition to creation of peaceful Somaliland.
Unfortunately, international community is not willing to listen the freedom voice of the people of Somaliland, although, regional countries and international community are directly dealing Somaliland government but still unwilling to grant diplomatic recognition. In many occasions the world is pressuring Somaliland into another union with the failed state of Somalia, and asked Somaliland to participate in the Reconciliation Conference of Somalia, which the government and people of Somaliland rejected.
In 2013, United Kingdom hosted a conference for Somalians to settle their difference, as a desperate attempt to stabilize Somalia and confront the growing terrorist groups. One of the agreed points was Somalia to open direct dialogue with Somaliland. The current Kulmiye-led government in Somaliland acquired the majority support of Somaliland Parliament, as direct talk with Somalia was forbidden by the constitution of Somaliland except high majority of parliament support.
Somaliland government engaged into direct talks with Somalia, despite public anger, to show to the international community the unreliability of the Somalia government in Mogadishu. The officials in Somalia do not represent the public view, as it is not elected by the people. Always Somalia government makes statements which violate the agreed articles with Somaliland, in order to misinform the public in Mogadishu and avoid the anger of the people.
After Somalia London Conference, the EU led an international campaign to stabilize and install government in Somalia, which finally brought the current regime in Mogadishu to the power.
The international community is sponsoring the entire budget of such shaky government including the salaries of the president and cabinet ministers. The African Union Forces (AMISOM) is protecting the government premises and embassies.
Mogadishu is ghost city and people live in green-zone areas and sound of bullet and explosions are common during night.
International community is forcing Somaliland to discuss its future political stance with Mogadishu administration, which don’t even control the capital and surviving on the payroll of the aid donors and EU. The political fate of Somaliland must not be allied to a government that does not exist practically. The international community has no right to holding diplomatic future of the people of Somaliland back until a failed states stabilizes.
The Somalia government does not meet the criteria of an independent government, as it doesn’t control its territories and cannot decide on its own future without conferring with the foreign stakeholders in Mogadishu.
The international community tried to help Somalia in 1993 through ‘Operations Restore Hope’ which intended to deliver food aid to the drought hit areas in Baay and Bakool regions. Regrettably the warlords in Mogadishu confronted the operation and forced the international forces to retrieve out of Somalia, leaving thousands of people die for starvation.
Somalia is an example of ‘failed state’ due to civil war and lack of central government. The Somalians don’t get the basic services like clean drinking water, public schooling and health services.
Terrorists and pirates are using Somalia as safe-haven to organize their attacks and destabilize the regional countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Somaliland and Djibouti. It is also transit hub for drug smugglers across Africa and to Asia.
Somalia’s geographical location is strategic to international maritime; however, the pirates off the Puntland coast formed threat to the commercial vessels in the international water.
Today Mogadishu is ‘Robin Hood’ City, where the killing and organized crime is very common. Al-Shabab and armed militia control the city during the night, as the capital of Somalia is ‘Ghost City’ and not fit for decent human life.
After 23 years of lawlessness, the international community led by the African Union forces (AMISOM) is trying to restore the law & order in Mogadishu. AMISOM is training former militia and battling Al-Shabab.
Thousands of Somalians are facing devastation in refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. There three generations without proper schooling in Mogadishu, who know how to shoot than using pen.
Instead of challenging all the above difficulties, the Federal Government of Somalia in Mogadishu is giving all its energy on blocking Somaliland from gaining an international diplomatic recognition.
Mogadishu administration is arming and financing terrorist groups inside Somaliland like KHAATUMO to destabilize Somaliland’s far-east regions. KHAATUMO militia leaders plan their attacks against Somaliland in Mogadishu.
Both International community and Mogadishu Administration must know that Somaliland independence is public demand, and neither Somali politicians nor international community can change such decision.
In contrary, Somaliland self-determination will help the international community in destabilizing Mogadishu, using the unique disarmament experience of Somaliland. Somaliland Scouts, British Somaliland military of 1960, was used to restore order in Mogadishu by first Somali President Adan Adde.
The current illegal diplomatic and military activities of Mogadishu administration against Somaliland is like an old Russian joke which says the story of a peasant who requests a genie a wish, the genie offers a wish but says that whatever the peasant gets his neighbor will get doubled. The peasant thinks for a bit and then says “Make me blind in one eye”.
By Abdulaziz Al-Mutairi

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Transfer Denied: The Hidden Costs of Washington’s War Against al-Shabab

Somali-Americans worry that U.S. efforts to cut the money stream to the African terrorist group could lead to mass starvation back home.

ColUMBUS, Ohio — As a child, Noor Dubow fled war in his homeland of Somalia. Growing up, he fought constantly against hunger while living in a refugee camp in neighboring Kenya. Today, he wears a tie to work, goes to school at night, and lives in a tightknit Somali community in America’s heartland. But Dubow, 29, still struggles with fear — not for himself, but for relatives left behind who are about to be cut off from his financial lifeline.

Since moving to Columbus five years ago, Dubow regularly has sent money to his family through an ever-dwindling number of banks willing to wire funds to private financial firms in Somalia. The last major bank in the United States to do so abruptly stopped this month, worried about prosecution or other liabilities should the money be seized by militants who are ravaging the East African country.
That means Dubow and the thousands of other refugees in Columbus — home to the second-largest Somali population in the United States — have no way to support relatives who wrestle with starvation, illiteracy, and violence.
Some may turn to al-Shabab, the Somali-based militant group, which feeds on desperation as a recruiting tool. That could directly threaten U.S. national security by helping to breed a new generation of terrorists eager to attack American allies across Africa and, potentially, targets within the United States as well.
Others, like Dubow’s 90-year-old grandmother, simply may not survive without the funds he and other Somali immigrants dutifully send back each month.
“If they don’t get this money, some people will die for sure. For sure,” Dubow said.
He says this matter-of-factly, with little emotion. It’s just the latest life-or-death situation he has had to face.
ohio_003 copycropped
It is a quandary that Washington also is grappling with as U.S. officials weigh the risks of allowing financial streams to remain vulnerable to terrorist groups against policies that, ultimately, could further destabilize Somalia and empower al-Shabab.
Since the 9/11 attacks, U.S. law enforcement has cracked down on the use of bank transfers to fund terrorism abroad. In turn, banks have grown increasingly wary of small and usually local firms that transfer money overseas.
To be clear, the U.S. government has not explicitly prohibited money transfers to Somalia. But banks are spooked at the prospect of violating sanctions — and incurring multibillion-dollar fines — should the funds fall into militants’ hands.
Somalia has been plagued by chaos and lawlessness since the 1991 overthrow of President Mohammed Siad Barre. The country was ranked by the Fund for Peace as the world’s most insecure state for six straight years until last summer, when it was edged out by South Sudan. The United Nations reported in 2014 that nearly82 percent of people in Somalia live in poverty, and life expectancy is 55 years.
Meanwhile, the violence continues: On Thursday, Feb. 26, mortars hit the presidential compound in Mogadishu. And last week, at least 10 people were killed in suicide bombings at a hotel in the capital.
Worryingly, the Islamic State — a relative newcomer to Somalia — claimed responsibility for that attack.
Worryingly, the Islamic State — a relative newcomer to Somalia — claimed responsibility for that attack.
The current Somali president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, is backed by the United States in his effort to restore even a shaky stability to Somalia. But improving the rule of law and banking oversight remain distant aspirations for Mohamud as he tries to pull together a functioning government in Mogadishu while waging a drawn-out war against al-Shabab.
The lack of regulation, combined with corruption, has made Somalia a too risky destination for international bank transfers. Western Union and other big money transmitters refuse to operate in Somalia.
So the diaspora of Somali immigrants — in Ethiopia, Kenya, Britain, Australia, and the United States — relies on smaller money senders to help support their families back home. They include firms like Dahabshil, Kaah Express, and Tawakal, which specialize in getting money to the Horn of Africa.
Across the world, banks’ unwillingness to work with money transmitters has increased costs and caused delays from Pakistan to El Salvador. The specter of unwittingly funding the Islamic State has added to the caution.
This month, Bosnian refugee Ramiz Hodzic was charged in St. Louis with sending almost $9,000 to terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq through Western Union and PayPal. Cases like that often don’t involve a lot of money. But they have increased regulatory scrutiny on money transmitters.
Not since 2008 has there been a bank in Columbus willing to wire money to Somalia. One by one, banks in Seattle, Minneapolis, North Dakota, and elsewhere around the United States stopped the cash transfers until Merchants Bank, based in Carson, California, was the only big bank left. That gave Merchants an 80 percent share of wire transfers to Somalia.
But in a Jan. 27 letter, Merchants Bank informed Somali money-transfer companies that their accounts would be closed because their business was too complex to meet its regulatory burden to “detect potential violations of the law.”
Merchants Bank declined to comment on its decision or on the letter, which was viewed by Foreign Policy.
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On one of the few recent nights he is neither working nor studying, Dubow heads to a brightly lit Somali cafe in Columbus. He and his friends play dominoes as they drink gingery sweet Somali tea and eat samosas, a triangular meat-stuffed pastry. But lately, they mostly talk about what they are going to do as the end of the month approaches, helplessly knowing their relatives anxiously expect financial help.
Deeq Farah, a long-haul truck driver who has been in the United States for eight years, wanders up to join the discussion.
“My mom called me a few weeks ago, and she said, ‘I heard the government stopped money transfers — is that true?’ And I said, ‘Yes, it is,’ and she cried,” Farah said, shaking his head.
It is impossible for a bank to guarantee that al-Shabab will never obtain any part of funds sent into Somalia from private wire transfers. The militant group is known to steal from local citizens, impose taxes on humanitarian aid, kidnap victims for ransoms, and otherwise terrorize those who live in the territory the group controls across the country.
“What it really comes down to is, how do you differentiate legitimate small dollar transfers from evil money?”
“What it really comes down to is, how do you differentiate legitimate small dollar transfers from evil money?” said Bert Ely, who runs his own banking consultancy in Washington, D.C. “And the reality is, it’s very hard to do.”
Washington could intervene. Regulators could set up a system of checking on the wire transfers that, if followed, could exempt banks from prosecution or liability.
“They could look at requiring a couple of money remitters to meet a very high standard of due diligence, on both this side and the Somali side, and then give the middleman bank some sort of safe harbor,” said Peter Harrell, who left the State Department as deputy assistant secretary for sanctions in December and is now a fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington.
The U.S. government could also create its own link to Somalia by using the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as a middleman to make the wire transfers. But Juan Zarate, a former senior Treasury Department official and counterterrorism expert who oversaw sanctions programs during President George W. Bush’s administration, said using the Fed would make for a difficult and, at best, short-term solution. For one, it would task the Fed with sorting out the good guys from the bad — a risk the U.S. central bank is likely unwilling to take.
Still, Zarate said, “the question of how you mitigate the risk of this is not going to go away.”
“So what is that long-term solution?” Zarate said. “The government has to help figure that out.”
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That’s how Somalis in the restaurants, tearooms, and barbershops of Columbus see the problem too.
“We believe the banks didn’t stop the money; the government stopped the money,” said Hassan Omar, the president of the Somali Community Association of Ohio. 
“People believe U.S. foreign policy stopped this money.”
“People believe U.S. foreign policy stopped this money.”
Many refugees here feel they are bound to send money back home to relatives not only out of an emotional duty, but also as part of their purpose for being in the United States in the first place.
Shukri Qalib, 47, and her husband sort mail in a U.S. Postal Service warehouse in Columbus. They have been supporting her parents and five children, who all live in refugee camps in Somalia and Ethiopia, and the couple calls the money-transfer system “life support” for them all. Similarly, retiree Ahmed Ali, 72, sends part of his pension home to Somalia; he says it would be “worthless to be in America while my children are starving.”
The system was at risk even before Merchants Bank stopped the wire transfers this month. With money senders from Virginia to Washington state now closed, agents are driving hundreds of miles, with as much as $100,000 in the trunks of their cars, to deposit the money in the few small banks still willing to wire funds to Somalia.
For the first few weeks of February, some money transmitters tried to find stopgap measures. Ali Farah, a Columbus-based agent with Amal USA, said he was able to operate at 20 percent capacity for a few weeks, sending certified checks to First American Bank, a small bank in Chicago. But First American plans to close his accounts at the end of March.
A few small banks are still willing to transfer limited amounts of money — including one in Minneapolis and one in Atlanta. But agents refuse to identify them, afraid that doing so will lead to their shuttering as well.
On Thursday, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) met with banking regulators and State Department representatives to try to find a way to allow Somalis in America to continue sending money back home without breaking any laws or jeopardizing security, but no solution was reached. More than 25,000 people with Somali ancestry live in Minnesota, which al-Shabab has targeted as a potential breeding ground for new recruits. The militant group also last week launched a new threat against the Mall of America, which is located outside Minneapolis.
In a statement, the Treasury Department said it is aware of “difficulties finding ways to send money to Somalia through the U.S. financial system” and called the lack of regulation in Somalia “a key factor.”
For now, the closed sign is still on the window of the Columbus branch office of Tawakal, which until this month had worked with Merchants to send money to Somalia. Tawakal is one of five closed money transmitters in the Banadir shopping center, an indoor maze of Somali clothing stands, cafes, and a private space in a back corner that is reserved for the five daily calls to prayer.
At a barbershop near the back of the sprawling mall, the lively conversation among the men inside is about how they can no longer send money to Somalia.
“Everybody has a mother, father, brother, sister who depends on this money,” said Sade Guleid as he cut a customer’s hair. He said some Somalis in Columbus are holding out hope that the money transmitters might reopen in a few weeks.
“They can’t think about this stopping for good,” Guleid said. “They can’t even comprehend it.”