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Somalia: Journalists and Civilians under Attack

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Nov 15, 2007 (071115)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

The Ethiopian-backed Somali government has closed down three independent radio stations, a media crackdown that coincides with escalated fighting in Mogadishu and an estimated 173,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) newly fleeing from Mogadishu. Human rights and media rights groups in Somalia and around the world have condemned the assault on journalists.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (http://www.cpj.org), seven Somali journalists have been killed in the line of duty this year, the second highest death toll worldwide behind only Iraq.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains brief reports on recent developments in Somalia from Reporters without Borders, the National Union of Somali Journalists, the UN High Commission for Refugees, and FAST International, a monitoring service provided by http://www.swisspeace.org

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today concerns the increased threat of renewed war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

For earlier AfricaFocus Bulletins on Somalis, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/somalia.php

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Somalia - Government asked to explain closure of three radio stations in two days

Reporters Without Borders Update

14 November 2007

For more information:
Leonard Vincent, Bureau Afrique / Africa desk
Reporters sans frontiŠres / Reporters Without Borders
Email : afrique@rsf.org / africa@rsf.org
Web : http://www.rsf.org

Reporters Without Borders today called on Somalia's transitional government to explain why it has arbitrarily closed three independent radio stations in the past two days, breaking its promises and leaving the capital with virtually no independent news outlets.

"A government's undertakings are still valid even in war time," the press freedom organisation said. "The Somali civilian authorities signed a charter guaranteeing press freedom but they have clearly given way to the military forces in the capital, which are openly flouting the rights of its journalists. The public has been left in the dark, the media have been silenced one by one, and their employees have been forced underground or into exile. The consequences of this authoritarian behaviour are disastrous."

Twenty-four hours after closing independent Radio Shabelle, Somali government forces yesterday raided the studios of two other privately-owned radio stations in Mogadishu, Radio Banadir and Radio Simba, ordering them to cease broadcasting at once. "They said the closure order concerned all the independent radio stations in Mogadishu, Simba Radio news editor Mustafa Haji told Agence France-Presse.

The federal transitional government has not commented publicly on these raids, which have coincided with a major sweep by Somali government forces supported by Ethiopian troops through the capital's Bakara market neighbourhood in search of weapons and Islamist insurgents.


Popular Radio Station Silenced, NUSOJ Strongly Protests

National Union of Somali Journalists (Mogadishu)

Press Release

12 November 2007

http://allafrica.com/somalia

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is gravely concerned about the growing press freedom crisis in Somalia following today's (12 November 2007) shutting down of Radio Shabelle, a popular Radio Station in Mogadishu, by the Security Forces of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia.

Around 11:30am Mogadishu time, heavily armed security forces operating in Bakara Market forcefully entered the premises of the Radio Station and ordered all staff to come down from their building, according to the management of the Radio. The security forces, subsequently, commanded the Radio Director Ja'far Kuukay and head of its Programmes Abdirahman Yusuf, publicly known Al-Adala, to go with them. Although Shabelle staff were released, they were informed by the commander of the army that their station is closed, Chairperson of Shabelle Radio Abdimalik Yusuf told NUSOJ. The radio station, immediately, went off air as ordered.

The security forces of the Transitional Federal Government did not cite the reasons behind their closure. But the Radio Shabelle journalists believe that their professional and independent stance caused the closure.

"We denounce this illegal action from security forces which silenced today Radio Shabelle" said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. "We appeal to Transitional Government to allow Radio Shabelle to resume its operations because of the important community service function it performs in serving the news and information needs of the people".

Radio Shabelle and its journalists experienced gross violations of their professional freedoms and rights, according to the records of the National Union of Somali Journalists. Apart from continuous threats and terror acts against its employees, its acting Chairperson Bashir Nur Gedi was recently assassinated at his home in Mogadishu.

"Somalia became the worst country for press freedom and security of journalists in Africa and the second most dangerous place for journalists in the world after Iraq, because political groups do not like the Somali media's role of disseminating useful, impartial and objective information to the public" Omar Faruk added.

"Since this is blatant violation of international law that severely restricts the Somali people's access to information, an internationally-recognized human right, we call upon the international community to immediately intervene and end ongoing grave violations of press freedom" Omar said. "We again inform the Transitional Federal Government that it has international obligation to protect and respect journalists by allowing them to freely seek, receive, and impart information without fear of their safety'.


Somalia: UNHCR responds to exodus from Mogadishu

13 Nov 2007 | UNHCR Briefing Notes

http://www.unhcr.org/news/NEWS/47397e9f4.html

UNHCR is sending more aid supplies to thousands of displaced Somalis as the exodus from Mogadishu to outlying areas continues amid ongoing fighting between Ethiopian troops and insurgents in the strife-torn capital.

Over the last two weeks, an estimated 173,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) have fled from Mogadishu - nearly 90,000 of them to nearby Afgooye, some 30 km to the west. Another 33,000 have been displaced to various other places around Mogadishu, while thousands more have gone to other locations in Lower Shabelle. This morning, staff reported that private trucks were still evacuating families from Mogadishu to Afgooye, which is struggling to cope with more than 150,000 IDPs who have fled there since the beginning of this year.

Yesterday, UNHCR emptied its Mogadishu warehouse of the last remaining stocks of aid supplies - enough for 2,500 families - and has sent them by truck to the Afgooye area for a planned distribution tomorrow. The drivers, however, are complaining of difficulties at checkpoints, where soldiers are demanding payments of up to $300 before letting the aid through.

The planned distribution tomorrow, in co-ordination with various NGOs who are also trying to deliver other aid supplies, will focus on Lafoole near Afgooye, where there are 15 settlements hosting thousands of IDPs. Partner NGOs today were in the settlements providing tokens to heads of families, who will then exchange the tokens tomorrow for aid supplies.

The needs in the Afgooye area remain immense, however. People can no longer find space for shelter around the town itself. Many families are simply living under trees. Although several NGOs are trucking water to the sites, it's not enough to meet demand. There are long queues around water trucks and some IDPs report having to wait in line for up to six hours for 20 litres of water.

Last week, a UN inter-agency team which traveled to Afgooye found thousands of newly displaced Somalis living in extremely harsh conditions. Fifteen new makeshift settlements had mushroomed along the road between Mogadishu and Afgooye, bringing to 60 the total number of spontaneous camps lining the route.

In Mogadishu itself, Ethiopian troops are continuing with their hunt for insurgents and weapons, mainly in and around the Bakara market - Mogadishu's main trading centre. Yesterday, the house-to-house search and street patrols for insurgents expanded to six of the city's 16 districts, trapping civilians in some of these areas. All roads leading to districts such as Hawlwadaag, Hodon and Wardigle and Bakara market in south Mogadishu were sealed off by Ethiopian troops. Other areas such as Dayniile, Yakhshiid and Huriwaa to the north were also affected, restricting the movement of civilians. Residents in some of the areas said soldiers had been posted on rooftops.

A woman trapped in her home in the Hodon district said by phone that there were soldiers outside her house. She said she and her children had been ordered to stay indoors although they had no food, water or electricity. Soldiers told her that anyone moving about during the search would be shot on sight. In other parts of the city, those who could leave their homes fled on foot or using donkey carts or wheelbarrows. There was little vehicle traffic due to the closing off of many major roads leading into and out of the city.

This morning, there were reports that some parts of Bakara market have re-opened, but roads leading to and from the area remain sealed off.

The total number of IDPs in Somalia has risen to 850,000. This figure includes some 450,000 who have been displaced by conflict in Mogadishu since February 2007.


Somalia | Trends in conflict and cooperation #4

FAST Update - Somalia team
email: somalia@swisspeace.ch
http://www.swisspeace.org

Trends in conflict and cooperation #4.
Aug. 15-Oct 15 2007

[FAST International is the early warning program of swisspeace, covering 25 countries/regions in Africa, Asia and Europe. Based in Bern, Switzerland, the program is funded and utilized by an international consortium of development agencies.]

Security

In December 2006, the dissolution of the Somalia Islamic Courts Council (ICC), that attempted to unify Somalia under an Islamic state based on Shari'a law, opened up a political vacuum. Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which is unpopular, weak and dependant on Ethiopian support, is unable to fill this gap. The previous FAST updates had reported increasing tendencies towards destabilization and political devolution in Somalia since the defeat of the ICC. The TFG's military efforts to stabilize Somalia became difficult and progress remained halted.

Conflictive events continued in Mogadishu and in other parts of the country after the National Reconciliation Conference (NRC) (see graph). Armed opposition to the TFG, particularly the jihadist Youth Mujahideen Movement (YMM), which had claimed responsibility for many attacks in Mogadishu during the NRC, continued to disrupt the proceedings. During September, groups of several dozen YMM fighters attacked police stations and TFG and Ethiopian military bases with heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. On 29 September, the attacks peaked when three police stations and two Ethiopian bases came under fire. Conflictive events reported over the last two months of 100 insurgents and 45 government soldiers, and the arrests of 700 people supporting the insurgency.

Local resistance to Ethiopia-TFG forces has been reported in regions where the TFG's armed opposition originated. The central regions of Hiran and Galgadud, which is the heartland of the Ayr sub clan of the Hawieye clan family and the home of former chair of the ICC, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, continued their resistance to the TFG administration. In the Lower Shabelle region, the "fief" struggle between the Ayr warlord and ICC Defence Minister Sheikh Indha Cadde remains unsettled. Several clashes were reported between TFG forces and militias claiming loyalty to the old administration.

The dispute between Somaliland and Puntland over most of the Sool and Sanaag regions escalated into a broader military conflict. The conflict's development in Sool, which has been occupied by Puntland since 2003, makes another full-scale war between the two entities increasingly likely. On 17 September, forces loyal to Puntland's government clashed with local pro-Somaliland militias near the Sool region's capital Las Anod. On 20 September, renewed fighting mounted between Puntland forces and Somaliland troops. On 24 and 28 September, heavier fighting broke out. On 1 October, fighting broke out in Las Anod with up to 15 people reportedly killed. The conflict takes place at a time when the TFG leadership has dissolved many of the militias of the otherwise heavily militarized Puntland - a fact worsened by the region's deep economic crisis.

Political

The continuing clashes in Mogadishu and the conflict between Somaliland and Puntland increased civilian causalities during the reporting period. Fighting between government troops and anti-government elements in Mogadishu injured over 30 people and killed several civilians, including three journalists. Field reports from aid agencies indicate that the conflict between Puntland and Somaliland displaced about 500 families. Assistance to vulnerable people was further complicated following the abduction of WFP staff in Mogadishu by TFG forces on 17 October. WFP suspended food aid distributions as well as the loading of food in Mogadishu, which was supposed to be distributed to 75,000 people. On 23 October, WFP staff has been released without any precondition.

A political solution to the Somalia crisis through the NRC remained unpromising, if not disappointing. The NRC, which domestic and external actors had described at the beginning as an opportunity for Somali warring parties to bring peace and integrate Somalis, increased polarization and political fragmentation. With no other major inclusive political reconciliation initiatives in the future at the national level, the NRC created a confused political picture that stimulated clan based solidarity.

The failure of the NRC in bringing a political solution to the Somalia crisis was nothing more than the failure of two reconciliation conferences: the NRC, which was later transformed by the TFG into its desired alternative NRC; and the Somali Congress for Liberation and Reconstitution (SCLR) organized by the political opposition based in Eritrea.

The outcome of the conferences confirmed that neither the TFG nor the opposition is united enough internally to provide Somalia with a credible political formula and is far too unorganized to compromise with its rival.

The TFG's failure to reconcile over key issues became evident when at the closing; the organizer of the conference expressed his disappointment about the many delegates who believed that matters of concern (to their clans) had not been adequately addressed. Having achieved no substantive reconciliation, the NRC did not appear to have achieved its major objective, which is to preserve the transitional institutions and its personnel. The TFG remains weak, unpopular and internally fragmented.

This reporting period indicates that their diverse aims and support bases made it impossible for the opposition to merge their agenda and come up with an attractive political formula. The failure of the SCLR began from its inception when disagreement among opposition groups over the agenda, modality and leadership alliance mounted. On 1 September, the Hawiye sub-clans refused to participate in the SCLR after the failure of opposition groups to even address their common commitment to removing Ethiopian occupation from Somalia.

The conference opened on 6 September, but before it could proceed, a disagreement broke out on the modality of reconciliation. The question as to whether the SCLR "reconstitution" means determining a political formula for a future Somali state or simply forming an alliance aimed at "liberating" the country from Ethiopian occupation needs to be addressed. Nationalists withdrew because they argued that the conference would not consider their case for building a single national movement dominated the ICC.

Disputes have also been reported between the ICC and two other elements - diaspora groups and the Free Parliament faction - on the structure of the alliance related to positions and number of seats. The ICC managed to apportion 45 percent of the 191 seats, and the remaining 25 percent went to the Free Parliament, 16 percent to the Diaspora and 14 percent to clan elders, civil society organizations and intellectuals. On 15 September, non-Islamist delegates walked out of a session in a dispute over the issue of whether to include the term "jihad" in the proposed charter for the alliance. Later it was decided to use a more general term, "struggle."

At the conclusion, the alliance spokesperson announced that the movement it had formed - the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) - would pursue armed resistance and diplomacy to achieve an Ethiopian withdrawal from Somalia and would be "dissolved" when the occupation ended, which reflects the inability of the opposition to come up with a political solution to Somalia's crisis.

Apart from the failed reconciliation efforts, the internal rifts of the TFG deepened severely during the reporting period. In particular, conflict surfaced between President Abdullahi Yusuf and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi over the mandate of transitional institutions. Among other events, divisions were displayed by the sacking of the public prosecutor that was initiated by Gedi in order to punish the prosecutor and by the prosecutor's refusal to leave his post supported by Yusuf. The personal dispute of the leadership had been growing for over a year but hardened significantly over the granting of oil concessions to foreign companies and the USD $32 million Gedi received from Saudi Arabia.

As a consequence of the growing power battle, the two men are said to have established their own personal militia and Gedi, in particular, is seeking much closer ties with his own clan platform than before.

International

The failure of the TFG's strategy to gain external support through the NRC became evident when external actors gradually lost interest in supporting the TFG. During September, although external actors were not satisfied with the outcome of the conference, they remained consistent with their original position and efforts; continued pressing the TFG to engage in reaching out to the political opposition and calling on African states for stabilization. On 12 September, the Washington-inspired Contact Group for Somalia, which includes the US, the EU, European donor states, and international and regional organizations, met in Rome and repeated its calls for African states to contribute to AMISOM.

So far, however, there is no measurable progress in withdrawing Ethiopian forces from Somalia or the deployment of troops by other African states. Ethiopia has reportedly sent reinforcements with troops now estimated up to 50,000. The most likely addition to AMISOM is likely to come from Burundi, where training by the US military has been completed. However, the 1,700 Burundians still lack capabilities and will not make a significant difference on the ground. As the SCLR conference proceeded Prime Minister Gedi - under pressure from donors - traveled to Djibouti in a failed attempt to open talks with opposition figures, including ICC supporters. On 17 September, President Yusuf was in Saudi Arabia where he and some former delegates to the NRC reaffirmed the agreement of the conference. But the opposition quickly announced its rejection of the pact.

The United States continued its effort to isolate Jihadists and their supporters from TFG supporters. The US urged Saudi Arabia to support the TFG in order to isolate its domestic opposition and threatened to put Eritrea on its list of state sponsors of terrorism. At the same time, an US donation of USD $97 million to Ethiopia for development seemed to encourage its military presence in Somalia. The missing link between external actors and the TFG reached a peak during the end of the reporting period, notably following the erosion of Yusuf's power, which left external actors with no one to turn to anchor their policy.

Outlook

Given the uncompromised divergence of interests within and between the TFG and its opposition, Somalia will continue to experience devolution in which power remains dispersed to regional and local clans and warlords. The leadership split within the TFG threatens to turn into an open military division along clan lines. Wider armed resistance against Ethiopian and TFG forces is certain, which the TFG will likely seek to counter with large-scale offensives against Islamist-controlled areas across the south. Neither the internationally recognized TFG nor the opposition alliance will be able to come up with an attractive political formula that would win legitimacy by the majority of Somalis. With the TFG evidently failing to deliver on any front, the discord with external actors is expected to grow further. Most African states continue to be reluctant to commit to AMISOM, and Western involvement remains shallow and limited to their "antiterrorism" agendas.

Meanwhile, the unattended conflict between Somaliland and Puntland threatens to get out of hand, and Puntland's internal stability looks increasingly shaky.


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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